Report and free match highlights as Brighton win 3-0 at the Emirates to surely end Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes; second-half goals from Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav and Pervis Estupinan move Seagulls up to sixth; Gunners four points behind Man City, who need one win to claim title
Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes suffered what will surely be a fatal blow on Sunday, with Brighton’s sensational 3-0 victory at the Emirates meaning Manchester City can be crowned champions next week.
City – who secured a comfortable win at Everton earlier in the day – will clinch a fifth title in six seasons if Arsenal lose to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Any other result in that fixture will give City the chance to seal the trophy in front of their own fans against Chelsea next Sunday.
After City’s victory at Goodison Park it was effectively all or nothing for the Gunners against Brighton but they were unable to rise to the occasion against a Brighton side that responded emphatically to their humiliation at the hands of Everton earlier this week.
In a feisty encounter that simmered throughout, Julio Enciso struck the first blow when he nodded in Pervis Estupinan’s cross from just yards out after Jakub Kiwior went down when Evan Ferguson trod on his boot, which came off.
Kiwior’s decision to go down split the Sky Sports pundits. “A big strong centre-half, really?” said an unimpressed Roy Keane, while Micah Richards insisted it was a foul by Ferguson.
The Seagulls then toyed with their hosts, who saw Mikel Arteta booked for dissent as they grew increasingly frustrated, and delivered the knockout punch when Deniz Undav punished former Brighton forward Leandro Trossard’s loose pass by lobbing Aaron Ramsdale.
Estupinan then added a third when he followed up Ramsdale’s weak save by prodding home the rebound and sparking wild celebrations on the south coast – and in Manchester.
While Arsenal were dejected, Brighton and their supporters will now look forward to the prospect of securing European football – and perhaps even an outside shot at the Champions League qualifying spots – when they go to Newcastle on Thursday, live on Sky Sports.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (6), White (5), Kiwior (5), Gabriel (5), Tierney (6), Jorginho (6), Xhaka (6), Saka (6), Odegaard (6), Martinelli (6), Jesus (6).
Subs: Trossard (4), Nelson (6), Partey (6), Nketiah (6), Smith Rowe (6).
Brighton: Steele (7), Caicedo (8), Dunk (8), Colwill (8), Estupinan (8), Gross (7), Gilmour (6), Enciso (7), Mac Allister (7), Mitoma (8), Ferguson (7).
Subs: Welbeck (7), Buonanotte (6), Undav (7).
Player of the match: Pervis Estupinan
How Brighton shot down Gunners
Brighton celebrate their second goal as they claimed a stunning win at Arsenal
With Arsenal attempting to hang onto City’s coattails and Brighton eyeing a Europa League spot, both sides knew the importance of claiming victory, and the tone was set within five minutes when Gabriel Martinelli smashed into Kaoru Mitoma.
Moises Caicedo gained retribution moments later with a lunging tackle on the Arsenal forward, with both offences somehow not being punished by a yellow card.
- Arsenal made one change to the side that won at Newcastle last time out, with Kieran Tierney coming in at left-back for the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko
- Brighton made four changes after their thrashing at the hands of Everton, with Levi Colwill, Billy Gilmour, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson replacing Adam Webster, Deniz Undav, Facundo Buonanotte and Danny Welbeck
Martinelli had to be replaced following Caicedo’s tackle and was seen in a protective boot at full-time. Trossard came on to replace him amid a chorus of boos from the travelling supporters.
The Belgian almost silenced them when he clipped a shot against the bar, while Brighton went close when Ramsdale tipped over Enciso’s shot after a sweeping move.
Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka dragged shots wide and Jason Steele saved from Gabriel Jesus, but the Seagulls had the standout chance of the first half when Enciso skied a shot despite Ramsdale lying prone after superb work by Mitoma.
Enciso did find the back of the net just after half-time, though, nodding in Estupinan’s cross as Kiwior hit the floor, with Gary Neville telling Sky Sports: “As a centre-half, surely you just have to stand up and let the attack finish?”
The goal increased the heat on Arteta, who had been ticking all afternoon, and he went into the book after one outburst too many, with the reality beginning to dawn that this was the day on which their dreams of a first Premier League title in 19 years would be extinguished.
Danny Welbeck and Alexis Mac Allister went close to doubling Brighton’s lead as they turned the screw on their hosts, with Arsenal unable to shake the impressive visitors from their groove.
Reiss Nelson was summoned from the bench and almost scored with his first touch but there would be no repeat of his heroics against Bournemouth in this stadium earlier this season.
Undav then punished Trossard’s mistake with a delicate chip over Ramsdale that prompted De Zerbi to charge towards the corner flag in celebration.
The Brighton boss then produced a knee slide along his technical area as Estupinan crowned a remarkable win that moves his side up to sixth and within touching distance of Europe.
Arteta: We collapsed in second half
A downbeat Arteta bemoaned Arsenal’s second-half performance, saying: “Today we have to apologise because the performance that we had in the second half is not acceptable.”
Asked about beating City to the title, Arteta said: “Mathematically it is still possible and this is football, but it is impossible to be thinking about that today.
“We have to be thinking about the result and the performance we had in the second half and understand why and obviously have a different reaction in the next game.
“We concede a goal when they are really direct in behind and from there the team had no reaction. Obviously, when you give the silly goal away, the second one, then the team collapsed. The team had no answers.
“You have to do a lot of good things, incredible things, to be second in this league over the last 10 months but if this team is able to show that face as well, for sure, there are things that have to be addressed.”
Relentless City finally grind down Arsenal
Many of Arsenal’s fans made their way towards the Emirates well ahead of kick-off, encouraged by the warm weather and the prospect of watching City slip up at Everton.
But those hopes were dashed before half-time at Goodison Park as the champions continued their relentless pursuit of a third successive title with their 11th consecutive Premier League win.
That incredible run included a 4-1 dismantling of Arsenal at the Etihad, while the Gunners also threw away leads at West Ham and Liverpool as Pep Guardiola’s side increased the pressure on their title rivals to unbearable levels.
In truth, it was those three games that have almost certainly handed the title to City but this was the match in which Arsenal finally submitted, with Brighton running riot as hope evaporated among the home supporters.
Even Arteta, so spiky for most of the game, could not bring himself to fume about Undav and Estupinan’s goals, remaining almost motionless on the touchline, perhaps contemplating what it will take to catch Guardiola, his former boss, next season.
De Zerbi: The players are showing they believe in me
De Zerbi praised his players for the way they responded to their 5-1 home defeat to Everton earlier in the week, saying: “I am very delighted for the performance. We deserved to win.
“I’m really proud because the last five days were very difficult after the defeat on Monday. Today we showed our passion. We showed we are serious people. My players showed they are great people.”
After a game in which Brighton dominated the possession and expected goals totals, De Zerbi shared an insight into his philosophy, saying: “In Italy the journalists speak a lot about courage.
“I can decide how I can lose, not how I can win. I want to lose playing this style. I want to lose playing with this courage, to try to command the game. Sometimes you can lose but it’s my style and my idea.
“The players are with me in this idea. They are showing they believe in my idea.”
Instead, Steele continued to play passes out from the back that would make a neutral nervous. The Brighton goalkeeper does not just see passing angles that others in his position can’t, he has the confidence and skill to execute those passes too. It makes this team unique in their approach.
It will be a challenge to maintain it to this standard given the resources of the clubs against which they are now competing. De Zerbi himself has suggested that Caicedo and Mac Allister will move on in the summer. There will be interest in others, such as Mitoma.
But Brighton have a clear identity now under the Italian and if they can continue to recruit to that model then the future can be exciting, nevertheless. And not just for the Brighton supporters but for everyone who has the privilege of watching this thrilling football.