Late leveller denies Saints deserved win


Southampton were cruelly denied three points deep into stoppage time as Neal Maupay poached a 98th-minute equaliser for visitors Brighton, who could scarcely believe their luck having been second best throughout at St Mary’s.

Armando Broja’s fifth goal of the season looked like earning Saints’ fourth Premier League win of the campaign by the same scoreline as the previous three, as a sixth clean sheet of the campaign looked to be theirs.

But Maupay was in the right place at the right time to turn in a wayward shot from substitute Jakub Moder, just as Saints looked to have safely negotiated 10 minutes of added time following a late injury to Leandro Trossard.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made two changes to his side that battled to a 2-2 draw with Leicester at St Mary’s, as Saints embarked on their second home game in four days after four weeks away.

Only one was through choice, with Jan Bednarek’s enforced absence opening the door for Lyanco to make his first home start alongside Mohammed Salisu. At the other end, Hasenhüttl preferred Broja to Adam Armstrong to partner the in-form Ché Adams.

The Albanian’s impact was instant. Released by Adams, he just narrowed the angle on himself slightly before pulling the trigger with a low drive saved by Robert Sánchez, who then climbed to his feet to repel Adams’s follow-up, though both strikers will be disappointed they were not able to shoot closer to the corners.

With the game still only four minutes old, Sánchez was again called upon after some excellent footwork in the box from the tall yet nimble figure of Broja, who cleverly worked enough space to fire in another low shot the Spanish stopper repelled with an outstretched boot.

Saints were starting on the front foot, just as they did against Leicester in midweek.

Brighton’s first notable attack was a raid down their left, as a low cross found its way through to Enock Mwepu, whose shot was blocked, crucially.

The scare did not stop Saints piling forward. Tino Livramento cut inside on to his left foot and hit a low shot blocked by Shane Duffy, before Nathan Tella chased the loose ball and went down under a sliding challenge, but the ball was cleanly played.

Lyanco and Livramento both had efforts at goal as Saints kept the pressure on in a frantic opening 15 minutes, but Sánchez was not troubled.

Back came Brighton, as Mwepu went for goal again, this time sending Alex McCarthy diving to his left to make a fairly routine stop.

Then Adams rather snatched at two half-chances, slicing one and scuffing the other, but the home crowd could not fail to be encouraged by their team’s attacking play, if not their finishing, which has proved to be Saints’ Achilles’ heel this season.

It was making for a fun spectacle, regardless of the lack of goals, and Brighton reminded their hosts of their threat when Trossard cracked a first-time shot from the edge of the box that needed McCarthy to be alert, stooping to his left to parry the ball to safety.

But it was still Saints looking the most likely, and a fine first-half performance was deservedly capped with a goal for Broja just shy of the half-hour mark.

When Sánchez failed to clear the ball with any great conviction, it was returned with interest by Lyanco and flicked on by Nathan Redmond for Broja, who kept his cool superbly, turning inside Shane Duffy and casually beating Sánchez with the outside of his foot as the keeper advanced.

It was a classy finish from the on-loan Chelsea marksman, Saints’ leading scorer with five goals in all competitions, as Redmond helped himself to an assist for the fourth successive home game in which he’s featured.

The goalscorer’s deceptive pace saw him outrun the Brighton defence again nine minutes later, with Tella racing to join him in the attack, but the Academy graduate was penalised for clashing heels with Tariq Lamptey to let the visitors off the hook.

Broja was then clattered into by Duffy as he led another speedy counter-attack, underlining the difficulty the Seagulls were having in containing the 20-year-old.

Saints have had trouble building on half-time leads, and Hasenhüttl would have known the importance of a two-goal cushion, which should have been theirs when some great work from Redmond released Livramento, whose cutback just needed to be finished off by Broja, but this time he scuffed his shot, which bobbled agonisingly wide of the far post.

Continuing where they’d left off in the first period, the hosts attacked again through Tella, who was tripped by Yves Bissouma, which tempted James Ward-Prowse to go for goal from a narrow angle, almost catching out Sánchez at his near post.

Brighton boss Graham Potter made his first change 10 minutes into the second half and saw an instant improvement when Maupay turned and steered a left-footed shot towards the bottom corner that just rolled a yard wide, though it was not struck with a lot of venom and McCarthy may have had his far post covered.

Otherwise it was more of the same from Potter’s men, who had struggled to match Saints’ intensity all afternoon, but a long delay for treatment to Joël Veltman, caught by Tella’s flailing arm in an incident that saw the youngster booked, gave the Seagulls a chance to regroup.

Whilst Saints like to operate at high speed, Brighton prefer to build up slowly and are known for their patience in possession, so the lull in proceedings seemed to suit them.

Their first big chance of the second half arrived 12 minutes from time, as substitute Aaron Connolly found space in the area to pick out Maupay, whose shot was too close to McCarthy, as the keeper made a vital stop with his feet to preserve Saints’ clean sheet.

But the hosts were finally breached eight minutes into stoppage time after Oriol Romeu conceded a free-kick in shooting range.

The wall stood tall to repel the first effort, but the ball bounced back to Moder, whose miss-hit shot bobbled into the box and dropped perfectly for Maupay to convert a gut-wrenching leveller from close range.