Brighton missed out on the chance to be crowned Championship champions, after they conceded a 89th minute equaliser against Aston Villa, allowing Newcastle to snatch the title at the death.
Henri Lansbury created the first opportunity of the game, as he fired towards goal from 30 yards out, but Albion goalkeeper David Stockdale made a textbook save to his left-hand side. Lansbury then pounced on Sebastien Pocognoli’s hesitant chested pass inside the box, but with just Stockdale to beat from a couple of yards out, the midfielder headed narrowly wide. Anthony Knockaert then won a free-kick out wide and whipped the delivery into the box, however Steve Sidwell’s glancing header flashed wide of the target. Albion’s next chance fell to Sidwell again, as he raced into the box and met Bruno’s cross to the back post, but this time the midfielder’s header dropped over the crossbar. Pocognoli put the visitors under pressure when his backpass fell straight to Villa striker Scott Hogan, but Stockdale came to the rescue with an important save low down. Sam Baldock was then sent racing through on goal, as he latched onto Knockaert’s defence-splitting pass, however the Albion striker was unable to hit the target as he lashed over from a tight angle. Stockdale was called into action moments before half-time, as he darted across his goal to push Conor Hourihane’s 25-yard free-kick around the post, to ensure the teams went in level at the break. A last-ditch tackle by Lewis Dunk denied substitute Keinan Davis after the break, before the striker’s close-range effort rose over the crossbar from the resulting corner. Stockdale then made comfortable saves to keep out long-range attempts by Leandro Bacuna and Hourihane, moments before Glenn Murray glanced a header agonisingly wide from Jamie Murphy’s inswinging cross. After close control from Baldock inside the area, which allowed him to get free and fire towards goal, Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone did well to keep out the striker’s powerful right-footed effort from a tight angle. But on 64 minutes, the game swung in Albion’s favour when Baldock was tripped inside the box by Nathan Baker, leaving referee Darren Bond to point to the penalty spot and show the Villa defender his marching orders. Murray took responsibility from the penalty spot and rolled the ball past Johnstone into the bottom corner, giving the Seagulls the lead while Newcastle United were winning 2-0 at St James’ Park. A matter of minutes later, Murray intercepted a backpass and rolled the ball back for an onrushing Baldock, but the striker was unable to make a firm connection in front of goal. Substitute Solly March went close with a low-driven effort from 25 yards, before Sidwell headed wide of the target from Dale Stephens’s delivery to the back post. Johnstone then saved well from Bruno’s right-footed strike inside the box, shortly before James Bree’s long-range attempt was deflected narrowly wide of Stockdale’s left-hand upright. Stockdale protected Albion’s slender lead with a fantastic save at full stretch from another dangerous Hourihane free-kick. But with just one minute remaining on the clock, disaster struck for the Seagulls when Jack Grealish’s long-range effort found its way through a crowd of bodies inside the box to level the scoreline. Albion pushed for a late winner, however time ran out, meaning Newcastle finished as champions and the Seagulls reached the Premier League in second place.
Stockdale (6); Made a string of fine saves from various players, but will have nightmares about the way Grealish’s shot went in.
Bruno (7); Didn’t look as if the early clash of heads with Hogan affected him, with a solid game against a tricky Adomah.
Tomori (7); Has gone from strength to strength since his arrival, and this was another top performance.
Dunk (7); Tussled well with Hogan through the first half, before having to deal with Davis after Hogan’s withdrawal. Might feel partly to blame with his attempted block on Grealish’s shot.
Pocognoli (6); Fortunate to get away with 2 first half errors, which really should have been put away; hard to know whether he will be here next season.
Knockaert (6); An off day for the Player of the Season; came up against rock-solid Taylor, who thwarted him most of the afternoon.
Stephens (7); As the game opened up he began to dictate the game, especially when playing against 10 men.
Sidwell (7); A busy player in the first half with tackles, shots and fouls all on the agenda for the Albion midfielder.
Murphy (6); A surprise pick for me; didn’t offer much in the first half, and as he was getting into the game finally, he was withdrawn.
Baldock (6); Did well to win the penalty, but will be extremly dissapointed he couldn’t take the other 2 glorious chances handed to him, especially Murray’s cut-back moments after the penalty.
Murray (7); Kept a cool head, and sent Johnstone the wrong way, which topped off a fine season for the Albion striker who finishes with 23 league goals.
March (6); Sent on to inject some pace down the left, and argubly gave Albion more that Murphy did.
Rosenior (6); Given a tough time a with his introduction at right back, when Villa were on top.
Hemed (N/A); Last throw of the dice to find a late winner.
AVFC - BHAFC; Baker (63; RED), Grealish (89); Murray (64; PEN);
Att; 32,856 (2,700 Brighton)