What can I say, it was fun whilst it lasted, but it was inevitable that the streak was coming to an end, but I don’t think the players or fans were expecting such an below par performance when they finally did taste defeat. Middlesbrough came to The Amex with the determination, not only to inflict the first defeat for the Seagulls, but to sit top of the pile at Christmas. The streak started against Middlesbrough, I guess it was only fitting that it was the same team who ended it.
The game started as you would expect from a top of the table clash; fast and energetic, but it was the away side who started this way, while the home side struggled to find any rhythm in their game, which was punished early on when Albert Adomah was allowed too much space on the left wing, he had the chance to run at Rajiv van La Parra and whip in a cross, it may not of been a good one, but Kike wanted the ball more than his maker Uwe Hunemeier, and headed the ball past David Stockdale to give Boro a 5 minute lead. James Wilson had the chance to equalise when he was put through by Tomer Hemed, but Daniel Ayala distracted him enough for his shot to be blasted over and into row Z of the travelling fans. Middlesbrough extended their lead when a corner from Grant Leadbitter was met by Ayala, his goal-bound header took a deflection off of Adomah wrong-footing Stockdale, to the delight of the away fans and bench. On the basis of play, it wasn’t much more than they deserved. The second half began better for Brighton, but Cristian Stuani had a chance to put the game to bed early on, when his long range effort was parried away by Stockdale for a corner. From the resulting corner, Ayala made a run from the back post and caught the ball sweetly with his right foot, but it was straight at Stockdale, to make it a relatively easy save. Jamie Murphy had a glorious chance to get the Seagulls back in the game, after some smooth passing from Hemed, Inigo Calderon and Beram Kayal on the edge of the Boro box, Murphy was free to have a shot, but his curling shot was punched away by Dimi Konstantopoulos for a corner. Brighton were once again caught out from a set-piece, when another Leadbitter corner crawled through everyone and fell kindly to Kike at the back of the box, his pinpoint cross was met by Stuani at the back post for the easiest of headers, to put the game out of sight. The final whistle was met with cheers from the away end, while the few home fans that had stayed applauded the players on their fine achievement.
Stockdale (6); Hard day for one of the season’s start performers, had to make some crucial saves, but nothing he could of done for the goals.
Bruno (6); Struggled to contain Adomah, and that allowed Adomah complete freedom down the left. Zonal marking didn’t work to any extent.
Greer (7); One of only a couple of players who actually relatively well, kept going even though they were down and out, and with out some much needed interventions, Boro could of helped themselves to more
Hunemeier (6); Beaten far too easily by Kike for the opening goal, but other than that he had a good game before needing to be replaced due to injury, a list which grows every week.
Calderon (6); Like Bruno, he allowed Stuani complete freedom on the right, he did however do better at stopping any chances being created.
La Parra (6); A quiet game for the winger who had scored 2 in 2, when he did try to get forward George Friend was on task to fizzle it out; was required to do more defending that attacking, and was outwitted by Adomah for the first goal.
Kayal (7); His passing in the first half was no more than dreadful, and he knew it. Second half, a completely different person, chances were being created and he actually managed to pass to a team-mate
Stephens (7); One of the very few stand out performers of the first half, and continued it into the second. If any chances were formed by Brighton, it mostly started or came from Stephens.
Murphy (6); Had a great chance to half the deficit, but his shot was well saved. Might of taken a touch to steady himself instead of taking it first time.
Hemed (5); Pretty quiet from the Israeli, only he pass to Wilson in the first half and his pass to Calderon to set up the Murphy chance were his only real contributions to the game. Some say his better off the bench, and it’s hard to disagree with this performance
Wilson (6); Hard chance to take, but maybe he should of at least hit the target. Other than the chance he was quiet too, but so were all the attacking players
Goldson (5); Came on for his first league appearance for the injured Hunemeier, look confident on the ball, but looks as if it will be short lived with Lewis Dunk avaliable once again after his ban.
Zamora (5); Came on to try and regain some pride, but like his fellow strikers, he struggled to make an impact; it was a clinical defensive display from the league’s best defence.
Crofts (5); A puzzling decision to bring on a centre midfielder on for a winger, but Chris Hughton did it anyway. Got control of the ball a lot, but only when Boro were backing off to defend their 3 goal lead
Brighton - Middlesbrough; Kike (5), Adomah (44), Stuani (62)