Kaoru Mitoma did it. Again. And Brighton have done it. Again.
Mitoma scored for the third successive game, the 25-year-old Japan winger’s looping header here securing a deserved Premier League win. And Brighton have found another gem, the latest in a long line of them.
Just £2.5million. That’s all Mitoma cost Brighton when he joined from Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale. Ridiculous, really, the knack this South Coast club has for sourcing such talent.
The Amex Stadium erupted when Mitoma scored in the 87th minute. It was a moment that had been building, ever since Deniz Undav unleashed a trilogy of misses that someone, somewhere, will be adding Benny Hill theme music over the top for social media giggles.
Undav had three shots – the first blocked by the defender, the second saved by the goalkeeper, the third denied by the post, all within four seconds of each other. Quite the alternative ‘hat-trick’ by Undav and Brighton feared it was going to be one of those days.
Kaoru Mitoma scored with a looping header in the dying minutes to earn victory for the hosts
The in-form winger has scored late winning goals in Brighton’s last two matches
The result stretched Brighton’s unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches
So when it finally became 1-0, you could feel the relief inside the Amex. Brighton may well be tested for Mitoma this summer, especially if he continues at this rate. That’s the way it goes for this club. Like it did with Leandro Trossard and Moises Caicedo in January.
Trossard left but Caicedo didn’t. Arsenal wanted him and he wanted Arsenal. Brighton said no and so he stayed, the 21-year-old Ecuador midfielder making his first appearance since that saga here.
Introduced as a substitute in the 57th minute, Brighton’s supporters showed they hold no grudge. They sang his name and Seagulls chief executive Paul Barber tackled the speculation in his programme notes.
‘It is only a seller’s market if the seller is willing,’ Barber wrote. ‘In the case with Moises, we were not. He has a huge future ahead of him, but for now he is really important to us, so I know our fans will get behind him for the second half of the season.’
They did, and with Caicedo’s help and Mitoma’s winner, Brighton now sit sixth in the Premier League and remain firmly in the hunt for European football under Roberto De Zerbi.
‘I can never substitute Mitoma because I felt, during the game, he could score,’ De Zerbi said afterwards. ‘He didn’t play the best game in his life but Mitoma always can score.’
On Caicedo, De Zerbi added: ‘I’m very happy. Together we are stronger.’
Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil added: ‘We should have got something out of the game. We have to score at least one goal from the situations we create. Today was one of them days.’
Moises Caicedo came on as a second half substitute on his return to the Brighton squad
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi called for supporters to back Caicedo after the transfer saga
Tariq Lamptey is an interesting watch for Brighton, the way he flies up and down the right wing, and the 22-year-old was responsible for the game’s first two chances, one for each team.
His dawdling on the ball in Brighton’s defensive third led to a needless corner which Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham almost flicked in at the near post.
Seconds later, Lamptey’s lightning run forward ended with him playing a pass in behind for Undav. Brighton’s striker tried to round Neto, but Bournemouth’s goalkeeper got the ball.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Sanchez 6.5; Lamptey 7 (Enciso 75, 6), Dunk 7, Veltman 6, Estupinan 7; Gilmour 6 (Caicedo 57, 6), Gross 6; March 6.5 (Webster 89), Undav 6 (Buonanotte 75, 6), Mitoma 7.5; Welbeck 6 (Sarmiento 57, 6.5)
Subs not used: Steele, Van Hecke, Offiah, Moran
Scorer: Mitoma 87′
Booked: Veltman, Dunk, Caicedo
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 7
Bournemouth (4-4-1-1): Neto 5; Smith 6, Mepham 6, Senesi 6, Zemura 6; Ouattara 6, Lerma 6, Billing 6 (Rothwell 66, 6), Anthony 6.5 (Vina 81); Traore 6.5 (Christie 61, 6); Semenyo 6
Subs not used: Travers, Stacey, Moore, Pollock, Greenwood, Kinsey
Manager: Gary O’Neil
Referee: Craig Pawson 5
After 15 minutes, Undav squandered three chances to score, each one more gloriously gaping than the last. His first shot was blocked by Mepham. His second shot was saved by Neto.
His third shot was pummelled against the left post. Undav will not want to watch this back.
Bournemouth wanted a penalty when Dango Ouattara was shoved over by Pervis Estupinan. Referee Craig Pawson awarded nothing, and VAR Jarred Gillett had no objection.
Caicedo was applauded onto the field by the home fans when introduced from the bench
Deniz Undav spurned an early opportunity to to give Brighton the lead in the first half
Before half time, Danny Welbeck wasted two chances. First, he headed Solly March’s cross directly at Neto. Then, he was millimetres from making a proper connection with Undav’s ball through the six-yard box. More of the same after the break, too, as Welbeck blazed over a shot.
In the 69th minute, a Bournemouth breakaway saw Antoine Semenyo charge forward. Brighton’s Joel Veltman had gambled with his tackle and got nothing, leaving Semenyo through. He went for goal but Estupinan got across to make a magnificent sliding block.
Bournemouth wanted another penalty when the ball hit Estupinan’s hand. Pawson didn’t give it. Perhaps only right, given the referee had missed a clear free-kick for Brighton in the build-up.
Then, the breakthrough. Substitute Jeremy Sarmiento’s cross and Mitoma’s header. Neto flapped at the ball in a bid to stop it from going in but it was frivolous. Brighton had their late winner, thanks to their £2.5m man.
BRIGHTON – Lost Leandro Trossard, but didn’t lose Moises Caicedo and that can make Brighton feel as if this window was a winner, along with the odd incoming, including Argentine midfielder Facundo Buonanotte, who came on as a substitute here.
BOURNEMOUTH – Three of their January signings started here – £20m Dango Ouattara, £9m Antoine Semenyo and loanee Hamed Traore – as Bournemouth look to give themselves a better chance of climbing out of that relegation zone.
The forward saw two efforts blocked before firing a third attempt against the woodwork
Hamed Traore enjoyed a lively debut for Bournemouth after joining the club on loan
Bournemouth remain 19th in the Premier League after the late defeat at the Amex Stadium