Roberto de Zerbi’s Brighton side were blown out by Greek heavyweights AEK Athens 3-2 in their Europa League group stage debut.
After AEK took an early lead on goals from Djibril Sidibe and Mijat Gacinovic, the Seagulls responded by equalizing on two separate occasions. Lewis Dunk was out with an injury.
After replacement Ezequiel Ponce scored a third after 84 minutes, Brighton had no response despite 13 minutes of injury time.
Ponce finished off a quick counterattack by AEK as Niclas Eliasson was given too much time to cross following Tariq Lamptey’s error.
As a result, Joao Pedro’s special double was disregarded.
It appears that the VAR is frequently called upon to hand down penalties. It happened not once, but twice after the former Watford forward had gone down; the first time, he was penalised for diving.
The record £30 million signing for Brighton scored both penalties, beating the goalie both times.
The troubled history of Brighton
The stadium announcer urged the Brighton crowd to “drink it in” shortly before the teams came out.
In the penultimate game ever played at their beloved Goldstone Ground, the club came perilously close to being relegated from the Football League.
It’s incredible how far the club has come.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced teams in the Premier League is a direct result of the foresight of owner Tony Bloom, who was in attendance.
Now they have Europe; next month, Champions League champions Ajax will visit, and in December, French club Marseille will do the same.
Brighton’s chief executive Paul Barber always emphasizes the need of looking ahead rather than back, but despite the team’s setback, it was as good a night as any to reflect on the past.
The stadium was filled with old photos, which appeared to be more of a thank you to the faithful who stuck with the team through the tough times and are finally reaping the benefits of their loyalty.
The loss of Dunk was crucial.
Unfortunately for Brighton, they were missing a crucial piece that would have helped them in their push from the Championship to the verge of the top four.
Dunk, like the rest of us, must have realized that Brighton would have had a much better chance of preventing AEK’s two first-half goals if he had been on the field instead of in the dugout.
Dunk’s absence was further highlighted when £14.5 million summer signing Igor Julio was booked for dragging back Levi Garcia inside the Brighton half out of fear that the Trinidad and Tobago international was about to run away from him.
Ansu Fati, a top player on loan from Barcelona who previously played in Europe in this league against Manchester United, forced a fantastic save from Cican Stankovic in the first half in his debut.
After breaking the offside trap and going free, Joao Pedro was frustrated that he couldn’t get a hat trick with Brighton still in the game since his shot went straight at Stankovic.
Brighton’s finest chance to tie it up for a third time came from Pascal Gross, but once again, the AEK keeper was up to the task.