- After making a slow start to the Europa League, Brighton are poised to progress
- Ajax are the only team to play Brighton this season and not score a single goal
- DOMINIC KING: I don’t understand what football is anymore – It’s All Coming Up
Roberto de Zerbi hailed the most illustrious victory in his club’s 122-year history as Brighton toppled Ajax for the second time in a fortnight, this time dazzling with their artistry in the home of the Dutch masters.
‘Yes, I think so,’ nodded De Zerbi, when asked, and those travelling fans celebrating high in the top tier of the Johan Cruyff Arena would agree. ‘We are very happy for our fans and our club. We deserved to win and played very well for 70 minutes.’
Ansu Fati led the way with a sparkling display, scoring the first and making the second for Simon Adingra to leave the Sussex club on seven points with two to play in Group B. ‘His best game with us,’ said De Zerbi.
After a slow start to their debut European campaign, Brighton are well set to progress in the competition but this victory may have been at a price with three more injuries, including captain Lewis Dunk and Pervis Estupinan, who broke down on his return as a sub.
James Milner limped off looking dejected after only eight minutes. He appeared to jar an ankle as he stretched to make a block, replaced by Billy Gilmour. Pascal Gross shuffled to left back where Milner had been deputising.
Ansu Fati and Brighton’s Simon Adingra celebrate in the Johan Cruyff Arena
Fati wheeled away to celebrate by the corner flag after firing into the bottom corner early on
Former Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn could do nothing as Brighton got the better of Ajax again
Your browser does not support iframes.
First-choice left back Estupinan was on bench after missing six games but De Zerbi did not want him to expose him to a long shift so the Ecuardorian came on in the 65th minute, and went off again, 12 minutes later.
Dunk, who has been selected by England for Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, indicated a groin problem near the end of the first half and did not come back out for the second. De Zerbi did not think any of the injuries were serious. ‘I hope not,’ he added.
Despite the disruption, Ajax could not find the net. They are the only team to play Brighton this season without scoring – and they have had two goes at them. At least the Dutch played with a greater sense of adventure than they showed in defeat at the Amex.
Their early season crisis has eased a little since John van t’Schip took interim charge and restored some confidence.
His team gifted their visitors the opener, however, when midfielder Silvano Vos telegraphed a pass, deep in his own half, and Adingra intercepted. Joao Pedro spun away to make the space and Fati capitalised, collecting Adingra’s pass and sliding an accurate finish past goalkeeper Diant Ramaj.
It was his fourth Brighton goal, his third in the last five appearances and the Spain forward on loan from Barcelona is becoming influential in De Zerbi’s team and developing a good understanding with Pedro and Adingra.
Ajax dominated much of the possession until half time without creating chances. Brighton frustrated them and almost stretched their lead before the interval. Ramaj denied Adingra with his left foot.
Adingra salutes after finishing off a fine team move in the second half
Roberto De Zerbi watched on from the touchline as his side beat Ajax for the second time in as many weeks
The home crowd cheered Chuba Akpom into the fray but he could do nothing as the four times European champions slipped further behind.
This time Fati was creator with a jinking run to drag the Ajax defence out of shape and a simple pass to Adingra, coming in from the right to clip a shot past Ramaj as the ‘keeper came sliding out.
Ajax rallied to exert late pressure but their night was summed-up by Brian Brobbey, whose side-foot volley in the 73rd minute hit the inside of one post, rolled along the goal line, hit the other post and spun out.
Brighton scrambled it to safety and survived a strong finish by the home side to complete a win that will have them singing all the way home to Sussex.
Brighton’s win may have come at a cost as Lewis Dunk picked up an injury
Pervis Estupinan also broke down with an injury after only just returning from a spell on the sidelines