Albion’s unbeaten start to the Championship season came to an end this afternoon as they lost their top-of-the-table clash 3-0 at home to leaders Middlesbrough.
In front of Jose Mourinho, who was watching on after being sacked as Chelsea manager on Thursday, an impressive Boro side led 2-0 at half-time and then netted once more in the second period to move three points clear of the Seagulls and end the hosts’ 21-game unbeaten run this season.
Brighton were without the injured Sam Baldock, Gaetan Bong, Solly March, Liam Rosenior and Kazenga LuaLua, while Lewis Dunk missed the game through suspension after his red card at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday.
Boro, unbeaten on their previous six trips to Brighton, took the lead after just four minutes. Albert Adomah cut on to his right foot from the left-wing and crossed for Kike to powerfully head home from close range.
Three minutes later, Albion had an opening when Inigo Calderon crossed from the left and James Wilson’s acrobatic effort took a deflection before falling kindly for Boro keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos.
Wilson also had the game’s next opportunity on 23 minutes as Jamie Murphy played the ball into the on-loan Manchester United striker and he burst past Boro defender Daniel Ayala, before blazing over from ten yards.
The hosts’ Dale Stephens then flashed an effort wide from 25 yards on 29 minutes, before Albion had half-hearted penalty appeals waved away six minutes later when Rajiv van La Parra went down easily under a George Friend challenge.
A well-organised Boro side doubled their lead a minute before half-time when Ayala headed a Grant Leadbitter corner goalwards and it deflected off Albion defender Bruno and then Middlesbrough winger Adomah before finding its way into the net.
Brighton winger Jamie Murphy had a shot from 20 yards comfortably saved by Konstantopoulos at the start of the second half, before Boro twice went close to extending their lead.
Christian Stuani forced David Stockdale into a smart save at his near post, before Ayala’s half-volley from Leadbitter’s resulting corner was also smartly kept out by Albion’s keeper.
Albion twice threatened in the 56th minute when Tomer Hemed dragged an effort across goal and then the ball was worked to Murphy, whose shot from 12 yards was pushed over the bar by Konstantopoulos.
Middlesbrough midfielder Adam Clayton had a well-hit 22-yard strike pushed round the post by Stockdale on the hour, before Boro made it 3-0 from the resulting corner. Downing’s kick reached Kike at the back post and his cross-shot was headed home by Stuani.
Boro had kept seven clean sheets in their previous eight games and comfortably made that eight in nine as they returned home with all three points.
BRIGHTON: Stockdale; Bruno, Greer, Huenemeier (Goldson 59), Calderon; van La Parra, Kayal, Stephens, Murphy (Crofts 74); Hemed (Zamora 74), Wilson. Subs: Maenpaa, Manu, Ince, Chicksen.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Ayala, Gibson, Leadbitter, Clayton (Zuculini 83), Kike (Fabbrini 64), Stuani, Downing, Nsue (Kalas 74), Adomah. Subs: Mejias, Amorebieta, De Pena, Forshaw.
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