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Joao Pedro’s penalty sends Seagulls into Europa knockout stages

Match report as Brighton reached the Europa League knockout stages with a 1-0 win over AEK Athens; the Seagulls were dominated in the first half but took the lead after half-time through Joao Pedro’s penalty; Brighton’s task was eased when Mijat Gracinovic was sent off for a second yellow

Joao Pedro’s penalty earned Brighton a 1-0 win over 10-player AEK Athens and safe passage into the Europa League knockout stages in the Seagulls’ debut continental campaign.

Initially, Roberto de Zerbi’s side found their Greek test a tough one, as they were dominated in the first half and would have fallen behind had Bart Verbruggen not made some smart stops in goal, with Steven Zuber’s strike also hitting the post.

But Brighton struck against the run of play 10 minutes after half-time when Pedro was felled by Damian Szymanski, before the Brazilian stepped up to roll home his spot kick.

AEK Athens 0-1 Brighton: Joao Pedro’s penalty sends Seagulls into Europa League knockouts against 10-player hosts
Match report as Brighton reached the Europa League knockout stages with a 1-0 win over AEK Athens; the Seagulls were dominated in the first half but took the lead after half-time through Joao Pedro’s penalty; Brighton’s task was eased when Mijat Gracinovic was sent off for a second yellow

Joao Pedro’s penalty earned Brighton a 1-0 win over 10-player AEK Athens and safe passage into the Europa League knockout stages in the Seagulls’ debut continental campaign.

Initially, Roberto de Zerbi’s side found their Greek test a tough one, as they were dominated in the first half and would have fallen behind had Bart Verbruggen not made some smart stops in goal, with Steven Zuber’s strike also hitting the post.

“I am really proud for the players, first of all. For the fans, for the club for the owners for the people who work inside the club, it’s another historic day,” De Zerbi told TNT Sports.

“Now we want to reach first place in the group table, because it’s possible we can play two games less. It’s important.”

The returning Kaoru Mitoma fed Evan Ferguson down the Brighton left and the forward shot as he entered the box, drawing a save from AEK goalkeeper Cican Stankovic, before Domagoj Vida kept out Ferguson’s rebound with a superb block.

Brighton welcomed back Kaoru Mitoma from injury just in time to replace Ansu Fati, who is out for six months.
Igor Julio and Jack Hinshelwood started in defence in place of Tariq Lamptey and Jan-Paul Van Hecke, while Adam Lallana made way for Joao Pedro.
Simon Adingra then blasted over the bar a few minutes later, but the Greek hosts then grew into the game before taking control.

Orbelin Pineda blasted over before stinging Bart Verbruggen’s palms in the Brighton goal, with the Seagulls goalkeeper having to be equal to Zuber’s stinging drive from distance.

Pineda then put another effort wide before the hosts had their best chance of the first half on the stroke of half-time, when Zuber cracked a shot from a tight angle, which deflected off Lewis Dunk and onto the frame of the goal. Mijat Gacinovic then put the rebound over the bar.

AEK continued their onslaught of the Brighton goal after half-time with Pineda forcing Verbruggen into another good save – but the visitors then found their opener against the run of play.

Pedro went to ground under Symanski’s challenge in the box and after initially dismissing the claims, the referee stopped play moments later to go and check the monitor.

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The spot kick was given and Pedro dispatched it, sending Stankovic the wrong way to send the 2,000 Brighton fans in the 20-degree Greek heat into delirium.

Then came another Brighton boost as Gracinovic fouled Veltman with a clear lunge in the Brighton penalty area and with the midfielder already on a booking, he was given his marching orders.

Brighton then tried to take control of the game with Billy Gilmour firing over from inside the box – before Ferguson had an even better chance to steal it.

Source: SKYSPORTS

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