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A BRIGHTON side full of pace, energy and intent overpowered Newcastle United to run out 3-0 winners at St James’s Park today.
Optimism was in the air on Tyneside after victory over West Ham United last week, but Newcastle were punished for a slow start.
Steve Bruce was brutally honest in his assessment, admitting his side gave themselves a mountain to climb — ultimately proving too difficult.
“We never gave ourselves a chance,” he said.
“The penalty looked really soft but I’ll let other people make their mind up about that. Then we’ve let them in again, with a basic piece of play.
“Before we know it, we’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb. When you start like that in any game of football, let alone at this level, unfortunately you’re going to get punished and it turns into one of them awful afternoons.
“We changed at half time and 20 minutes after the restart we had a chance. But let’s be honest, I’m clutching at straws if I thought it was going to make any difference.”
Within just three minutes, Allan Saint-Maximin caught Tariq Lamptey in the area for a penalty, which Neal Maupay converted.
Moments later, Lamptey broke down the right again before Leandro Trossard crossed for Maupay to finish delicately into the corner.
Initially disallowed for an offside in the build up, a VAR check saw the decision overturned to compound the home side’s early misery.
The game was effectively over by then, with Newcastle failing to register a single shot on target all afternoon.
Lamptey continued to threaten, racing through on the counter-attack only to commit a foul before getting a shot away. His high position exposed Saint-Maximin’s poor defensive intuition and isolated Jamal Lewis.
Saint-Maximin soon hobbled off to be replaced by Ryan Fraser as Newcastle’s front two continued to feed off very little service. Callum Wilson was working hard, but Bruce’s decision to persist with Andy Carroll up front backfired.
As half-time approached, Lamptey went close again — forcing a save from Karl Darlow. And Newcastle were forced to tread the line after collecting a number of bookings for fouling their superior opponents.
Miguel Almiron replaced Carroll at the break and there was a notable increase in intensity after the Paraguayan’s introduction.
Their best chance came and went just past the hour and it fell to the perfect man — Almiron’s cross catching Lewis Dunk cold — but Wilson couldn’t direct his free header on target from six yards out.
That seemed to wake Brighton up, though they missed a series of chances. But with eight minutes remaining, Connolly found space at the edge of the box again and curled home to make sure of the victory.
The only loss encountered for Brighton was the otherwise excellent Yves Bissouma, who saw red in the closing stages for a high boot against Lewis after VAR recommended Kevin Friend review his yellow card award.
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