Brighton wing-back Solly March said his side were the victims of the Premier League’s latest “random decision” as a VAR-awarded penalty consigned them to defeat against Southampton.
The Seagulls looked on course for a point until March was penalised for a late foul on Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters.
The Saints player’s momentum carried him forward as the players tangled and tumbled into the box. Referee David Coote initially awarded the visitors a free-kick on the edge of the Brighton area but despite multiple camera angles appearing inconclusive his decision was overturned – allowing Danny Ings to score from the spot.
“It is just consistency, I don’t think there is any,” said March. “It is just random decisions that I don’t think the people who play football would give, but I don’t want to say much.”
In a statement the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) said the Referee Review Area was not used in this case as it was a “factual decision”.
Former Blackburn and Celtic forward Chris Sutton called it a “disgraceful” decision on BBC Radio 5 Live.
However, Seagulls boss Graham Potter played the incident down in his post-match comments and Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said the match officials had made a “relatively clear” decision.
Brighton had impressed in the early stages of an entertaining contest and deservedly went ahead when Pascal Gross converted a penalty after a handball from Saints captain James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse made amends with a pinpoint delivery from a corner that saw Jannik Vestergaard equalise with a powerful header into the top left corner.
Ings, returning after a month out with a knee injury and on as half-time substitute, completed Southampton’s comeback to lift them up to fifth in the table. Brighton stay 16th.
Ings helps Saints to up-tempo finish
While Hasenhuttl is an accomplished pianist and has reportedly performed in front of his players, he will have been frustrated by the off-tune showing he saw from them during the first period.
Brighton’s high pressing saw Saints cough up possession cheaply on the edge of their own penalty area on several occasions.
And as they struggled to play out from the back there was a noticeable absence of rhythm to their play.
When Danish defender Vestergaard levelled the scores, he did so with Southampton’s first effort on target in the game.
However, the half-time introduction of Ings, on for Moussa Djenepo, galvanised the visitors and added some sparkle to their attacking play.
The England forward’s deft touch brilliantly released Stuart Armstrong, as Theo Walcott went close with a curling effort from 20 yards.
His ball juggling skills and quick thinking also provided fellow substitute Nathan Redmond with a superb chance and he supplied the coup de grace from 12 yards, keeping his composure following a lengthy delay.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Brighton is that they do not reap the rewards their fluent football deserves, particularly in attack.
Prior to kick-off only strugglers Sheffield United, Burnley and sixth-placed Manchester United had scored fewer goals at home than the Seagulls this term.
And that, plus another failing – their weakness defending set-pieces – ensured their winless start on their own patch continued.
Danny Welbeck, Lewis Dunk and Gross all had good opportunities to ensure Potter’s side went into the interval with a healthy lead.
Instead they found themselves level after allowing the tallest player on the pitch a free run to connect with Ward-Prowse’s corner.
Only Leicester (seven) have now conceded more set-piece goals (apart from penalties) in the Premier League this season than Brighton (six).
And while Aaron Connolly saw his close-range effort saved with the score at 1-1, the manner of their defeat appeared to add an element of misfortune to their own shortcomings.
‘It didn’t seem so clear and obvious’ – what they said
Brighton boss Graham Potter, on the late penalty decision, speaking to BBC Sport: “I think the first challenge is probably outside the box and whether there was another challenge inside the box that is what they are trying to work out.
“It didn’t seem so clear and obvious. If they think that is what it is then we have to accept it.
“The sense was it was going to be outside the box. Things surprise you.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, speaking to BBC Sport: “With the ball I didn’t think we played our best game. It was slippery on the pitch, every player had problems. Then it is a lot of risk when you try to build up, make the passes on the ground.
“The crowd was also there, for the players a little but more stress. In the end it was a brilliant penalty by Danny Ings. A win like this last season, I don’t think we had a lot of. It’s good to see.
“I didn’t see the first penalty. For the second one, that is why we have VAR, especially when it is about decisions if it is in or not then you need this. I think it was clear inside the box. It is not nice to get a penalty against you but the decision from what I have seen was relatively clear.
“We have everybody fit now, we are going into a very tense period of the season and we need every player.”
Southampton end Monday-night Blues
- Brighton have gone 10 Premier League games without a win at home (D4 L6), their longest run without a victory on home soil in the league since a run of 12 in the fourth tier, ending in February 1998.
- Southampton won a Monday Premier League game for the first time in their last 15 attempts (D7 L7).
- Only Chelsea (8) have scored more Premier League goals from set-piece situations (excl. pens) than Southampton this season (7).
- Pascal Gross has been directly involved in 31 Premier League goals for Brighton, more than any other current player (14 goals, 17 assists).
- Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard has netted three goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, after managing just one in his previous 45.
- James Ward-Prowse registered his 25th Premier League assist for Southampton, a haul bettered by only three players (Le Tissier 63, Tadic 27, Dodd 26).
- Danny Ings is the first Southampton player to score in four consecutive away Premier League appearances since Rickie Lambert in January 2013.
- Solly March chalked up his 100th Premier League appearance for Brighton, just the fifth player to hit that milestone for the club (also Ryan, Dunk, Gross and Propper).
Brighton travel to Leicester for their next Premier League match on Sunday, 13 December (19:15 GMT).
Southampton host struggling Sheffield United earlier on the same day (12:00 GMT) in their next Premier League match.
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 5DunkBooked at 56mins
- 3WhiteSubstituted forJahanbakhshat 81′minutes
- 8BissoumaBooked at 89mins
- 13GroßBooked at 80mins
- 7ConnollySubstituted forMaupayat 64′minutes
- 18WelbeckSubstituted forTrossardat 82′minutes
- 1McCarthyBooked at 87mins
- 6RomeuBooked at 47mins
- 12DjenepoBooked at 13minsSubstituted forIngsat 45′minutes
- 32WalcottSubstituted forRedmondat 69′minutes
Match ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 1, Southampton 2.
Second Half ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 1, Southampton 2.
Attempt saved. Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Solly March with a cross.
Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card.
James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Oriol Romeu (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Alex McCarthy (Southampton) is shown the yellow card.
Che Adams (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Foul by Stuart Armstrong (Southampton).
Solly March (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Jannik Vestergaard.
Attempt missed. Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Pascal Groß.
Attempt missed. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Leandro Trossard.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Leandro Trossard replaces Danny Welbeck.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alireza Jahanbakhsh replaces Ben White.
Goal! Brighton and Hove Albion 1, Southampton 2. Danny Ings (Southampton) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Pascal Groß (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card.