With only a handful of fixtures remaining in the Premier League season, Brighton & Hove Albion produced an immense, resurgent response against Marcelo Bielsa’s robust Leeds United side at the AMEX on Saturday afternoon.
As the relegation battle sounded a constant stream of alarm bells in The Seagulls’ ears for a sustained period, it was the silky feet of Danny Welbeck that calmed the storm of anxiety as he helped propel his side to ten points clear of seemingly doomed Fulham.
Having flirted with relegation for a considerable length of the season, the pressure appears to have been alleviated following the hosts’ 2-0 victory courtesy of a scorching Pascal Gross penalty and a fiery Welbeck finish that arrowed spectacularly into the far bottom corner after some individual brilliance .
The visiting in-form West Yorkshire outfit were met by a resilient Brighton defence who, with Lewis Dunk at its heart, gave their opponents very few clear-cut opportunities. A clean-sheet to show for their tenacious performance, it earned Robert Sanchez a tenth shutout in as few as 23 Premiership matches.
A similar pattern
Brighton’s season has been one of frustration, there is little denying that. Manager Graham Potter has instilled a positive, fluid brand of football on the south coast which fails to be reflected by their position in the table.
Their greatest concern? Goals. The past seven and a half months have followed a clear, yet frustratingly similar pattern in which a swathe of chances have simply not been put away.
Saturday’s victory at the hands of mid-table Leeds adhered to that unaltered multitude of threatening attacks in the opposition’s half but, this time, there was one crucial difference. The net would be rippling this time around as Welbeck produced arguably his most assured performance in a Brighton shirt.
The Welbeck of old
Out of form and, out with injury for a sizeable chunk of his footballing career, the Welbeck of yesteryear that saw him thrive at Manchester United and Arsenal would unveil itself once again on Saturday.
Gross would convert the spot kick after Welbeck was upended in the box by Ezgjan Alioski on the stroke of the quarter-hour mark, before the forward confirmed the three points would be staying in Sussex as a result of a divine individual goal.
A Pascal Struijk blunder in the Leeds box was expertly controlled by the former Watford forward, shifting the ball into space as his weaker left-foot thundered it into the side netting of the distant corner.
It was an integral individual performance, mixing his raw pace and deft touches to full effect against a Leeds squad who made the long, southerly journey on the back of six unbeaten results.
Premiership status almost secured
The win should, in theory, seal Brighton’s Premier League status for the subsequent season as the deserved three points pushes Potter’s Seagulls 10 points away from relegation danger.
It, in turn, drives Brighton into 14th position, their highest spot in the league since October 3, at a time where the season was a mere four games old.
An element of jubilance followed the Seagulls’ win as, with four games remaining, Potter’s men look ahead to their upcoming fixture with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend, in a game where their top-flight status can be officially secured if Brighton are to triumph.