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Perfect start to 2013 for Adam El-Abd
Won Tuesday, new baby Thursday then beat Newcastle on Saturday. Adam El-Abd has had a great week!
Initially we’d all like congratulate Adam on the new addition to the El-Abd family, Adam let his fans know of the birth of his new baby via twitter on the 3rd of Jan: “Proud to announce that Xavier Saied El-Abd was born this morn at 1.41am. Mum and baby are doing gr8…”
Now back to the football… Brighton’s previous three games had left the fans a little short on inspiration as Brighton have dominated games but have not been converting their chances, the three games in these last two weeks were a little different…
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Watford
Brighton vs Watford is always a popular game due to the teams being fairly close on the map. This particular game had the additional rivalry of the managers who both played together in Ruud Gullit’s famous Chelsea side in the 90s, many would say that the Italian Gianfranco Zola, currently in charge at Watford, might be a little more famous than Brighton boss Guy Poyet. The two teams had already met earlier in the season at Watford where Poyet beat Zola with a penalty in a fairly even match. The score in Watford’s return game, also Brighton’s last game of 2012, would not be as close:
The first half was fairly close with both teams troubling each other’s keepers without really testing them. The way the game was building, goals were coming, just not enough in the right end… Ten minutes into the 2nd half, Watford striker Troy Deeney peeled into the channel onto an accurate pass and thudded the ball under the keeper just before Adam El-Abd’s slide could block the shot.
However disappointing that was, Albion fans only had to wait another ten minutes before Brighton levelled the score. The on form Kazenga Lualua continued a tenacious run and forced a mistake from the the Watford keeper, who spilled the ball out of his hands back to Lualua, who was then promptly sacked, just inside the area, by Watford defender Tommie Hoban. Brighton’s current set piece maestro David Lopez stepped up once more and efficiently smashed the ball into the top left corner.
There was little relief from Brighton’s leveller because a brace from Czech striker Matej Vydra was only minutes away…
Four minutes after Spanish Dave pulled Brighton level, Vydra struck from a distance; the shot was almost blocked by Adam El-Abd but instead it viciously deflected off Adam causing the ball to loop over the Albion keeper, who was left stranded as the ball that was fired at him was suddenly floating over his head. While that was terrible luck, the next goal was excellent, if you are a Watford fan. Seconds after kick off, Brighton got forward but were once more defeated by themselves with the final ball. Possession was lost in the Watford area, Brighton’s back-line was halfway up the pitch; two passes and a 40 yard run at blistering pace later, Vydra was clean through before delivering a composed finish to put the game to bed.
Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Watford
Ipswich Town vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton’s first game in 2013 could probably not have gone better. After the defeat at home to Watford, then having a long rest because of the cancellation of Albion’s boxing day fixture due to lack of available transport, travelling Albion fans were not sure what to expect… they got a few good surprises.
The first surprise was, due to the injuries to Bruno and Calderon, the choice of David Lopez at right back. Lopez – or Spanish Dave as he keeps getting called – is conventionally a centre or right sided midfielder but so far this season he has taken longer than expected to settle. His 60-ish minutes at right back against Millwall showed than when he is facing their goal and has the time to pick a pass, add to that his penalty scoring record, he has been able to show the fans why manager Gus Poyet brought him to the club.
The next surprise was Brighton not only scoring a header but also from a corner, as Dean Hammond attacked the near post to head home Orlandi’s inswinging corner 15 minutes in.
The surprises continued and just got better… Ashley Barnes earned a recall to the starting eleven and showed the form he promised from the preseason that didn’t seem to show before Christmas; 10 minutes before the break Albion went 2-0 up with a bit more of a direct route: Albion keeper Tomasz Kuszczak launched the ball up the middle, as usual the 5-foot-10-inch Craig Mackail-Smith (CMS) was competing in the air against a 6-foot plus centre-back and the ball was cleared but only as far as Brighton’s Orlandi, who deftly chipped the ball over two encroaching Ipswich players to the head of Ashley Barnes who in turn leaped and nodded the ball over the Ipswich back line, right into the path of Craig Mackail-Smith(CMS) already at full pace.
The surprise here was not CMS going clean through, nor was it that CMS hit his shot first time, nor was it that the shot hit the post, because those kinds of things happen a lot at Brighton games; The surprise was that after the ball hitting the far post, it bounced along the goal line to hit the near post then finally bounce into the net.
This had to have been a sign that the Seagull’s and CMS’s luck on front of goal had finally taken a turn for the better.
Brighton’s third and final goal didn’t arrive until the 2nd half when fans were treated to another Wayne Bridge special. The former England left back currently on loan from Manchester City had only scored 6 professional goals before the 2012/13 season; the last was back in 2007 while he was playing at Chelsea. Bridge’s goal in the 67th minute would be his third for the Seagulls taking his career tally to 9. The goal itself was similar to his goal against Sheffield Wednesday on the volley from a distance. Gary Dicker, returning to the starting eleven, had the ball in midfield and launched a high curling crossfield ball nicely into the path of Bridge running up from left back, Bridge took it in his stride with a great first touch, kept running, little touch with the knee to set himself up and then volleyed with his left. The shot was not that powerful and bounced a couple of times on its way but somehow it bounced past and over the diving keeper and in at the near post from 25 yards.
Ipswich Town 0-3 Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton and Hove Albion vs Newcastle United
For the 2nd year running Brighton were drawn at home to Newcastle in the cup. Bookies had Brighton down as favourites and Brighton did not disappoint! They pretty much had control for 90 minutes, it was beautiful and of course a little nerve racking due to Brighton’s recent pattern of chance to conversion ratio.
After about 25 mins Brighton had dominated and created maybe 10 chances of varying quality but only really tested the Newcastle keeper a couple of times; it had got to the point that if Brighton did not get around to putting one away, they would push further up and leave themselves wide open for a counter-attack as they had done on previous occasions.
Not today though!
Instead, Brighton kept their shape and plugged away for another 8 minutes until Albion captain, Gordon Greer (the Championship’s answer to Frank Lefoeuf) carried the ball out from the right side of defence and sent one of his long searching balls at the corner flag in the opposite corner of the field.
Wayne Bridge had already started to run from left back when the ball was released and quickly got up to full speed; The Newcastle defence was caught ball watching and they all expected the ball to go out for a goal kick but they we wrong, Bridge got there at the very last moment and pinged the ball at the near post to the awaiting Orlandi.
As Orlandi got the ball on the corner of the 6-yard box with his back to goal, his first touch did not look good but it worked out beautifully as he in-deliberately flicked the ball over his shoulder, spun a full 180 degrees and then at full stretch flicked the ball towards the far post with the outside of his left boot; initially it looked too weak to trouble the Newcastle keeper but his view was blocked, by the time he saw it the shot had bounced past his reach and inside the far post to give Brighton a very deserved lead!
Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi, Newcastle’s captain for the day, is a very big guy, for most the game he was marked by two players and every time Adam El-Abd was one of them. Every long ball Newcastle launched up, El-Abd was tasked with getting to the ball first; it was a very entertaining battle. El-Abd showed his football intelligence as well as his courage and commitment with every challenge. Shola spent the game mixed between frustration at not being able to breath for El-Abd in his ear and anger that no matter what he did he could not shake or scare off Adam. In the 64th minute Shola Ameobi was sent off for a second yellow card. The fouls committed at the points of both yellows looked very soft, especially the 2nd where Dave Lopez had his shin clipped and rolled at least 3 times, stopping to look at the ref in the middle. However, it was more likely that the dismissal was the final straw from a number of poor and late challenges born out of his frustration from Brighton’s Egyptian International Adam El-Abd’s tireless and intelligent marking.
Once down to ten men Newcastle actually seemed to improve, their work rate increased and there was a lot more urgency to their game, Brighton had to step up their game to keep their lead.
Using all three substitutes Brighton retained control and the game was finally put to bed in the 87th minute when substitute Will Hoskins spun off his man and beat a rather poorly organised Newcastle offside trap to run onto a perfectly weighted and lined up through-ball from right-back David Lopez.
The through ball took Will Hoskins’ run diagonally towards the right near post. This was almost identical to his chance against Watford, where he went for the nutmeg and caught the inside of the keeper’s left foot and didn’t score. Today though: clean through, last minutes, one on one, where he could easily put a home win against a premiership side to bed, Will Hoskins, calmly but purposefully placed the ball between the encroaching keeper’s legs and into the net to score his first Albion goal of the season and secure the win!
It was a great great day for the team and the fans who eagerly await the result between Arsenal and Swansea, the winner of their replay match will decide the Albion’s opposition in the next round at the Amex.
Additionally a stat published by BBC Sport via Opta Sports stated that Adam El-Abd had a 100% pass completion in the first half with all 36 passes attempted getting to a fellow player.
Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Newcastle United
Andy Thorpe is a Brighton blogger and season-ticket holder covering Adam El-Abd and the rest of the Seagulls for KingFut.com. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @4psta.
Brighton and Hove Albion Images courtesy of Paul Hazlewood – seagulls.co.uk