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El-Abd’s Albion still unbeaten in 2013
Adam El-Abd’s Brighton & Hove Albion almost continued their 100% record for 2013 but for a harsh and rare error from Polish international and former Manchester United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak. There were also some great goals these past two weeks and the return of El Punal!
King Fut’s Brighton blogger Andy Thorpe recaps Adam El-Abd’s latest performances with the Seagulls…
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Derby County
Morale and expectations were high for Derby’s visit to the Amex, on the back of last week’s FA Cup win over Premiership Newcastle and last seasons’ game where Albion dominated a two-nil win and Vicente nearly scored the greatest Brighton goal ever.
Brighton absolutely dominated the first half, they were gelling and the football was quick and precise. Top goal-scorer and record signing Craig Mackail-Smith was rested, leaving the inconsistent but capable of magic, Marmite-man Ashley Barnes leading the attack in Macca’s absence.
Barnesy showed what kind of mood he was in almost instantly by tapping in Brighton’s first goal in the 2nd minute: Inigo Calderon returning to the side at right-back threaded the ball to fellow Spaniard David Lopez, who swiftly drilled a low precise cross to Ashley Barnes who tapped in from less than yard to score the fastest goal scored at the Amex, so far.
Albion continued to play with confidence and continued to create chances; Ashley Barnes playing like that all out striker the fans want every week from him but hand’t seen since the friendly against Chelsea in the pre-season. He was strong and confident and consistently won the long balls sent to him from the goal and defence with his back to goal; keeping possession and tapping it back to the midfield and spinning off the try and convert the attack he started.
Albion’s second goal came off the back of Derby’s only attack of the half; Derby’s Conor Sammon seemed he would be El-Abd’s battle of the day, showing a nimbleness rare for a player of his size by nicking the ball in the Albion half and setting up Paul Coutts to shoot; but the shot never had the chance to trouble the Brighton keeper because it was comfortably blocked by Adam El-Abd.
Brighton then broke swiftly and decisively, this time it was Spanish Dave’s turn to set-up Inigo Calderon for a cross which he sent deep into the Derby box curling out as it went, nicely on to the end of the deep run from Andrea Orlandi who simply had to dip slightly to nod the ball home and put Brighton two-nill up within 26 minutes.
Albion kept pushing for the rest of the first half and into the second but could not convert their chances: Buckley from inside left combining well with Barnes on many occasions but both being foiled by the keeper or defenders.
Albion should have finalised the win on the hour mark when Buckley was put through by Barnes after holding the ball up well again. Buckley’s shot from just inside the box was blocked but trickled towards Orlandi, who was around 6 yards out, who’s seemingly simple tap-in was somehow blocked by the Derby keeper who’s save sent the ball straight back to Orlandi to finally finish… but once more the keeper managed to get in the way and slow the ball’s path to goal enough for a defender to scramble it off the line.
This turned out to be the turning point in the game; had Orlandi put that away, we later found that Vicente would have come on for his first appearance in over 5 months; instead Brighton took their foot off the gas; the midfield started to show some fatigue as if Orlandi’s miss sucked dry the adrenaline that was powering them.
Despite a more threatening runs from Buckley, this let Derby back in the game; their midfield started to dribble right down the middle past Brighton’s and Derby target-man Conor Sammon started to cause Adam El-Abd more trouble than Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi had done the week before.
The pressure on a tired Albion midfield resulting in Derby being awarded a lot of free kicks in threatening areas and despite the best efforts of El-Abd and the rest of Brighton defence; a free kick, 20 yards out with 20 minutes left to play, was drilled low and hard in to the box where it was stubbed home from six yards to give Derby hope of a point.
Albion manager, Gus Poyet, brought on Gary Dicker and Kazenga LuaLua almost straight away, while the aggressive dribbling of Kaz put Derby on the back foot at times, Albion still had to persevere a lot of pressure in the last 10 minutes. Fortunately El-Abd and his back four were equal to task, although it had the Albion fans on the edge of their seats.
As well as touring the pitch clapping the Albion fans after the game as usual, fans’ favourite, Adam El-Abd also turned to twitter to share his joy at the result: “Great win today to continue our perfect start to 2013! Happy days! Well done boys!”
Full-Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Derby County
Birmingham City vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Due to the immense amount of seemingly relentless snow that covered the nation in the days building up to this game, no-one was sure whether the pitch would be playable, fortunately it was and 1221 fans took their chances with the roads and rail in the hopes that Brighton could get their first win away at Birmingham since 1989…
Albion’s brand new Argentinian signing Leonardo Ulloa was unable to play due to international clearance still pending. Albion’s top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith returned to the side to replace Albion’s marauding winger William Buckley.
The game started off slowly, mainly due to the weather but Brighton appeared a little slower; 18 minutes in, Caldwell, the Birmingham captain and centre back, nodded them one-nil up from a corner.
This seemed to give the Albion players the nudge they needed and six minutes later with some good work down the left, Orlandi cut the the ball back from the left to Ashley Barnes on the edge of the box who neatly drove the ball low and hard inside of the near post, past the Birmingham keeper to restore the deadlock.
Then it was end to end stuff for the next 20 minutes, both sides testing each other’s keepers and it was Brighton who finally managed to take their chance with an awesome volley in the 43rd minute…
A neat little passing move gave left back and former England International, Wayne Bridge, the ball in the middle of the park, about 30 yards out heading towards goal. While this does sound like the normal distance that Wayne would unleash a Bridgey special long-shot; the ball wasn’t bobbling so instead he dinked a perfectly weighted, out-swinging ball over the Birmingham back line, which dropped beautifully on to the run from David Lopez; as he got to it, with perfect technique, Spanish Dave locked his eye on the ball and thudded a volley home right down the throat of the flapping keeper, who got a touch but really had no chance of stopping it and Albion were two-one up.
Birmingham made a change at half time and brought their giant target man Nikola Zigic and came out fighting, Zigic setting-up a good chance with a flick-on within minutes but Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak was equal to the task.
Brighton gathered themselves after the initial onslaught and came back with a barrage of attacks themselves but all without reward:
Calderon found space after a clever one-two down the right and crossed square to Orlandi who controlled and shot but was deflected for a corner, much to frustration of Ashley Barnes who was clean open to his left;
The following corner resulted in Orlandi putting the ball nicely in front of Hammond who’s diving header was cleared off the line.
The following Brighton corner was cleared back to the Albion defence who immediately pumped the ball forward into the path of the running Ashley Barnes, who was tugged to the floor and the play was stopped before the now clean though David Lopez could put the ball past the keeper. Orlandi curled a great free-kick round to the near post but it was tipped wide;
The following corner was headed to the near post by Hammond and fell to the path of Adam El-Abd, 3 yards from his near post, who was so close to directing the ball to goal (pictured right).
Then with 20 mins to go, Spanish Dave went off and Buckley came on and the flair show begun: after a few headers were exchanged, Brighton brought the ball down and Barnes exchanged a volleyed one-two with Orlandi then sent the ball out wide to Buckley who carried the ball forwards before sneaking the ball between defenders to the feet of Orlandi on the edge of the box. Orlandi lent in and deftly flicked the ball between his legs back to Barnes who shot over the bar.
A few minutes later Craig Mackail-Smith was taken off and the Albion fans were finally witness to the return of the legend of Vicente (El Puanl / The Dagger); Brighton’s former Spanish International and La Liga Champion has been away for an extended thigh injury.
Will Buckley once ran down the wing, cut inside and drilled the ball between three defenders to the feet of Vicente on the edge of the box, who, like the flair machine he still is, turned on the ball with his first touch and put himself a yard free of all three markers and into the box, then pulled a classic Vicente shimmy toward the bi-line to buy another two yards before pulling the ball back across the goal from the right side of the goal; unfortunately there was no-one on the near peg and their keeper dived and held the ball.
Right at the end of the game, the time when historically the Brighton defence have taken a little nap whilst waiting for the final whistle, a long ball was floated into the Brighton box toward the head of Birmingham’s Zigic. Zigic just about managed to win the header and sent a seemingly soft ball straight at Tomasz Kuszczak in the Brighton goal. Sadly for all involved Tomasz did not appear to expect it to be so soft or that hard; it looked as if he either wanted to push the ball over the bar or simply up in the air so he could catch it afterwards; instead he pushed it over his shoulder into his own net.
It was definitely 2 points lost for Albion but with the number of chances Brighton had to put the game to sleep, Kuszczak can’t really be blamed for his one mistake of the season.
Full-Time: Birmingham City 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Finally, after beating Swansea in their FA cup reply, Arsenal will soon be visiting the Amex for the next round of the FA cup, when Adam El-Abd, Vicente, new signing Ulloa and the rest of the team will be working to make the Gooners share the fate of Newcastle and be Albion’s next premiership scalp on their road to Wembley!