Arsenal vs Brighton result: Premier League score, goals and report

From the moment the finish line in the top-four race came into close proximity, it felt almost inevitable that Arsenal’s grip on the final Champions League spot would be afflicted by a plague of arthritis. The first bout of that disposition was made plainly apparent last week in a grim unraveling against Crystal Palace and, although this 2-1 defeat by Brighton was not quite so emphatic, its impact was no less devastating. A performance shorn of confidence has handed Tottenham the ascendancy and, in truth, Mikel Arteta can only field questions rather than complaints. The excuses of injuries to Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney were not responsible for a display that seemed to be weighed down by doubt and then bled into desperation after falling behind to Leandro Trossard’s well-taken goal in the first half.

Many an aggrieved supporter might point to Gabriel Martinelli’s equalizer that was ruled out on the brink of half-time. The Brazilian had bustled the ball in at the back post after a scramble from a corner only for a near-four-minute VAR intervention to belatedly disallow the goal for a barely visible offside. There was still plenty of time for Arsenal to make amends, though, and instead it was Brighton who compounded the Gunners’ misery when Enock Mwepu’s brilliant volley from the edge of the box beat Aaron Ramsdale with almost half an hour still left to play.

It left enough time for Arsenal to mount a late insurgence and after Martin Odegaard’s hopeful shot from distance looped into the top corner courtesy of a wicked deflection, bedlam broke loose in the Brighton box. Somehow though, thanks largely to the efforts of Robert Sanchez, Brighton were able to deflect the onslaught and cling on to their first win in eight league games. That stat alone should paint the picture of Arsenal’s dismal return from the international break that now leaves them level on points with Tottenham and with an inferior goal difference.

Arteta had attempted to avert another implosion by benching Nuno Tavares in favor of Granit Xhaka at left back. Really though Brighton’s bluntness in attack ought to have provoked few waves of fear. That appeared to be the case in a first half that started with a lack of pace or urgency that bordered on prehistoric. Both teams lacked for purpose with the goalkeepers all but stationary objects left to watch the action freeze in front of them.

Alas, when the shot of adrenaline arrived, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka only managed to muddle into one another’s path as they hesitated over the ball inside the area. A few minutes later, when Saka whipped in a brilliant cross to the far post, the sedated crowd burst into life but once it had been confirmed that Gabriel Magalhaes’s header had only struck the side netting, they receded back into their stupor.

The next awakening was rather more jolting for an Emirates emptied by the Easter holidays. Enock Mwepu was set free down the right flank by Lewis Dunk and his precise cut-back was met by Trossard on the edge of the box. The Belgian took the shot in his stride, fizzing the ball past Aaron Ramsdale and into the roof of the net. It was Brighton’s first goal in four matches and no less than a criminally hesitant Arsenal deserved. And when Mwepu’s error allowed Smith Rowe through on goal moments later, it was Dunk who made a terrific block to deflect the danger.

On the stroke of half-time, Arsenal thought they’d been afforded a lifeline. Saka’s corner was met by Gabriel at the back post and his header across the face of goal was turned in by Martinelli. The VAR wait was torturous, tallying three minutes and 40 seconds in total, the angle so tight that such a delay brought no conclusive revelation. On that basis, it may have been fairer to award the goal by way of benefit of the doubt and yet, there would be no such reprieve. To their players’ dismay, offside was awarded and the referee blew his whistle for half-time.

Mikel Arteta reacts during Arsenal’s defeat

(PA Wire)

Arsenal did at least return with a renewed sense of intent, but Cedric Soares somehow wormed his way to the front of the queue to take a free-kick from the edge of the box and promptly contrived to bullet the ball into the base of the wall. . And although Arsenal’s pressure appeared to slowly be grinding Brighton down, it was the Seagulls who came closest when Lacazette unwittingly flicked a corner just past his own post.

The sucker punch arrived not long afterwards. As Arsenal committed men forwards, with Saka blazing a rebound over the bar from the edge of the box, Brighton put together the sort of slick and incisive team move that had eluded Arteta’s side. Marc Cucurella raced down the left wing and found Moises Caicedo just inside the box. The Ecuadorian collected the ball again by way of Trossard’s sumptuous backheel and his chipped cross was met on the volley by Mwepu. It was a divine finish, drilled low into the bottom corner, with Ramsdale’s view obscured by a maze of bodies, and Arsenal were once again left to study the ruins of their own efforts.

Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe came off the bench as Arteta threw caution to the wind. Sanchez put himself bravely in harm’s way to deal with a dangerous Saka cross and Albert Sambi Lokonga’s long-range shot soared venomously but then harmlessly over the crossbar. Odegaard came within inches of drawing blood when his free-kick from him was tipped onto the bar by Sanchez and Nketiah’s rebound could only manage to rattle the same piece of woodwork.

It seemed at that stage as though Arteta’s side were destined to draw a blank. But as they ransacked every well of opportunity, the goal duly arrived with a great deal of fortune. Odegaard’s speculative shot from distance took a wicked deflection off Danny Welbeck and suddenly Arsenal had a flare of hope and the promise of an improbable rescue.

It brought on a frantic flurry as Brighton wasted time to great effect and Arsenal poured all ten outfield players into every attack. They came agonizingly close to an equalizer, first when Sanchez tipped Nketiah’s header away and then seconds later when Gabriel’s effort was blocked by Cucurella. It wasn’t to be enough, though, and the failure of those last-ditch efforts might just provide the distance that sees Arsenal’s top-four bid fall short.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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