United suffer 2-0 defeat at the Amex Stadium...
BRIGHTON 2 (Baldock 26, Calderon 63), UNITED 0.
Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Bennett, Ince, Kayal (Stephens 73), Teixeira, Calderon, Mackail-Smith (O'Grady 81), Baldock (LuaLua 75). Subs. Walton, Hughes, Ledesma, Best.
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Cooper, Bamba, C Taylor, Austin, Cook, Murphy, Mowatt (Doukara 73), Sloth (Antenucci 59), Morison (Cani 49). Subs. S Taylor, Berardi, Del Fabro, Sharp.
Referee: F Graham
Booked: Kayal, LuaLua (Brighton), Austin (United)
Att: 25,274 (1,815 United)
The midweek trip to Brighton's Amex Stadium saw United head coach Neil Redfearn make two changes from the previous weekend's win over league leaders Middlesbrough as captain Liam Cooper returned to defence in place of Giuseppe Bellusci, who served the first of his two-match suspension, while Casper Sloth came in for the injured Sam Byram.
It was a somewhat patchy start at the Amex as both sides vied for possession inside the early stages until Rodolph Austin has the first sight of goal on 10 minutes, lashing wide of David Stockdale’s left-hand post after being invited to let fly from range.
Luke Murphy then saw his long-distance effort deflected narrowly wide before the hosts had the clearest chance of the opening exchanges as Joao Teixeira glanced Craig Mackail-Smith’s left-wing cross inches away from Marco Silvestri’s far post with the United goalkeeper scrambling across his line.
A cagey period followed, with no real chances for either side, until the hosts broke the deadlock on 26 minutes through Sam Baldock. Mackail-Smith broke free down Brighton’s right and delivered a low cross for Baldock to calmly convert from inside the six-yard box.
And their lead could have been doubled moments later as Teixeira stole the ball in midfield and strode forward before slotting Mackail-Smith through on goal, only for the Seagulls forward to be denied by the legs of Silvestri at his near post.
Teixeira had pulled the strings for Brighton in August’s reverse fixture at Elland Road, and the Liverpool loanee was at the heart of most of the hosts’ first-half advances. The youngster was inches away from adding to the scoreline just before the break as he cut inside before curling just over Silvestri’s bar and into the stand housing the travelling United supporters.
United looked to make a strong end to the opening 45 minutes, but Sol Bamba was just unable to connect with Murphy’s cross from the left as Brighton took the one-goal lead into half-time.
The teams re-emerged from the break unchanged but United were forced into the game’s first substitution just four minutes into the second half as Steve Morison pulled up injured and was subsequently replaced by on-loan Albanian striker Edgar Cani.
But it was the hosts who continued to press as Inigo Calderon fizzed a strike across the face of Silvestri’s goal and a heroic last-ditch tackle from Scott Wootton stole the ball from Teixeira’s toes. Alex Mowatt’s free-kick sailed over at the opposite end, while Silvestri clutched Teixeira’s low strike as things started to open up.
Teixeira then fired into Silvestri’s arms again on the hour mark, but Brighton’s lead was soon doubled somewhat fortuitously via Calderon. After turning inside the area, Beram Kayal saw his strike pushed out by Silvestri but only as far as the unassuming Calderon, with the ball cannoning against the Spaniard’s body and into the back of the net on 63 minutes.
United looked to mount a response and Bamba powered a header wide from a Murphy corner while Cani was just unable to meet a back-post cross with the desired connection as Redfearn urged his men forward. The head coach had introduced Mirco Antenucci and Souleymane Doukara in attack, and the pair soon combined to craft United’s clearest opening on 77 minutes.
Antenucci was sent hurtling through on goal after a long ball over the top and the Italian striker opted to selflessly tee up the arriving Doukara with a smart backheel inside the area, only for Stockdale to thwart his low effort with a near-post block.
Brighton probed for a third at the opposite end and Silvestri pulled off a stunning double save with two minutes remaining on the clock, tipping Dale Stephens’ header onto the bar before scrambling Chris O’Grady’s rebound off the line with his legs, while Man of the Match Teixeira clipped the post in stoppage time after racing through on goal.
And that proved to be the final piece of meaningful goalmouth action as Brighton brought United’s three-game winning run to a halt, inflicting only a second Championship defeat of 2015 upon Redfearn’s side.