HomeSportsBrighton sink Manchester United with last-gasp Mac Allister penalty

Brighton sink Manchester United with last-gasp Mac Allister penalty

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Once again, it was a gripping contest on so many levels, loaded with incidents, drama, and arguments.

Once again, it would be decided at the very last penalty spot. There was a fundamental difference.

This time it was Brighton who cavorted about the pitch when it was over, the victory was theirs, and with it the revenge.

It had been impossible to ignore the backstory of the FA Cup semi-final between the teams from the Sunday before last, not least because the traveling Manchester United fans had been keen to remind everybody who would be going to Wembley for the final.

On that day, United had squeaked home after a 0-0 draw and seven rounds of a penalty shootout, with Solly March missing for Brighton, Victor Lindelöf then decisive.

This time, the sting came in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, and the feeling confirmed that a helter-skelter game was building to an inexorable climax.

There had been chaos in the United area following a Brighton corner, the initial handball shouts against Luke Shaw were overtaken when Bruno Fernandes cleared a Kaoru Mitoma shot from in front of his goalline, Alexis Mac Allister flashed over a low cross, and Moisés Caicedo stepped inside to work David de Gea with a curler.

But then everybody went back to that suspect Shaw moment, not least the VAR, Andy Madley. It became clear very quickly that Shaw had pawed the corner away from the head of Lewis Dunk—an inexplicable lapse—and there was only one decision for the referee, Andre Marriner.

Emotions had run high throughout, with Brighton feeling particularly aggrieved by Marriner’s failure to award them a penalty earlier. Mitoma had a couple of big shouts, although Marriner’s decisions were sound.

Now we had fever pitch, Mac Allister, who was excellent in central midfield, standing over the kick, and Roberto De Zerbi, the Brighton manager, unable to watch. He knew by the roar from the crowd that Mac Allister had scored, and, at last, he was able to release all the pent-up frustration.

De Zerbi had claimed in his programme notes that Wembley had been “far from our thoughts”. Did anyone really believe that? On the next page, the Brighton chief executive, Paul Barber, wrote about having “an early opportunity to avenge” the semi-final, which felt like a more accurate mood reflector.

By the end, De Zerbi was talking about justice, how there was a “god of football” because his team “deserved to win the semi-final”.

The scenes of celebration were wild, and the points further fired Brighton’s dream of a first European qualification and made things a little more interesting for United in terms of their Champions League push.

The major blot on United’s season has been their dismal away form. They have taken just one point from their matches against the three clubs above them and the five below them.

Brighton’s run-in is tough: they must still face Manchester City, Arsenal, and Newcastle. But playing like this, they will fear no one. They have feared nobody during an outstanding season in which they have created history.

Their 55-point haul is a top-flight record for them—three better than their previous best from 1981–82. And that was during a 42-game campaign.

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