Alexis Mac Allister saves Brighton in final minutes in thrilling Brentford draw

·4-min read

Brighton and Brentford served up a pulsating encounter between two teams vying for European qualification for the first time, with Alexis Mac Allister’s late penalty rescuing a point for Roberto De Zerbi’s relentless team. Both teams are punching above their weight and destined to provide plenty more entertainment for their supporters during the run-in on the evidence of this wild ride scattered with attacking intensity and defensive mishaps.

Pontus Jansson’s header gave Brentford the early advantage before three goals in the space of seven minutes levelled the match in a frantic first half. Kaoru Mitoma’s stunning finish was countered by Ivan Toney’s 17th league goal of the season, before Danny Welbeck headed in a second Brighton equaliser.

Ethan Pinnock’s close-range finish at the start of the second half looked to have clinched victory for Thomas Frank’s efficient operators but Aaron Hickey’s late handball enabled Mac Allister to have the final say with Brighton’s third equaliser.

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It was the least Brighton merited after pummelling Brentford with 33 shots, 153 of which were on target– the highest amount by a team in a Premier League match this season. Every outfield player also had at least two shots for the FA Cup semi-finalists. Manchester United will not relish facing them at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals later this month.

De Zerbi, confirming European football is Brighton’s target, said: “It was one of the best performances in my time here. If we won today you could say nothing [bad] and it’s difficult to play better than today.

“We are playing in a fantastic way and I’m sorry for the result because we lost points in a bad way.”

Brentford had struggled to get out of their half in the opening 10 minutes but made it count with their first attacking foray. A delicious cross from Mathias Jensen was firmly headed home by Jansson to stun the home supporters.

It could have been even worse for Brighton after conceding a free-kick inside their area from a back pass by Pervis Estupiñán, which was picked up by Jason Steele. Toney laid the ball off to Jensen but his strike was charged down by the scrambling defence. Visibly lifted by the escape, Brighton responded and Solly March cut inside off the right-wing but his deflected shot was saved by the Brentford goalkeeper David Raya.

Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock scores their third goal to make it 3-2
Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock scores their third goal to make it 3-2. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Brighton are capable of intricate football under De Zerbi but the direct approach can be similarly effective as shown with their first equaliser. Steele’s long clearance released Mitoma and he beautifully lobbed the ball over the advancing Raya for their equaliser.

The home fans were still celebrating when Brentford produced the ultimate sucker punch to restore their lead. Brighton sloppily conceded possession and Bryan Mbeumo flicked the ball into Toney’s path for a low finish.

This madcap game showed no sign of slowing down and Brighton equalised for the second time with March’s cross headed home by Welbeck. It was the first time since April 2019 both teams had scored this early in a Premier League match. The pace did not ease dramatically for the rest of the half and Brentford were reliant on Raya to push Mac Allister’s shot to safety just before the break. March also came close but his low strike was saved by the keeper, with Brentford grateful for the half-time whistle.

Any suggestion of a more subdued second half was quickly snuffed out with Brentford reclaiming the lead for the third time. Mbeumo floated in a pinpoint free-kick and Pinnock was the unlikely finisher with the defender volleying the ball into the net from close range.

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The hosts rallied again and Moises Caicédo lashed a fierce strike from distance which Raya needed to tip over the bar. Brentford were again indebted to the excellent Raya with the sought-after Spaniard denying March with a sharp save to his left.

In the 90th minute, the substitute Deniz Undav’s shot was blocked by Hickey’s hand and the referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty following a VAR check. Mac Allister stepped up and the Argentina World Cup winner sent Raya the wrong way to reward Brighton’s persistence with a point to end this enthralling contest.

Frank said: “I think when you lead three times you always want more, especially when you lead in the 90th minute. It’s always hard to take.”