Brighton’s European adventure in tatters after four-goal drubbing from Roma

By Sports Desk March 07, 2024

Brighton’s European adventure turned into a nightmare after they were blown away by Roma to suffer a 4-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roberto De Zerbi had guided the Seagulls through to the Europa League last-16 with a four-match winning run in the competition, but first-half goals by Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku put the visitors on the ropes in Rome.

Worse was to follow after the break with Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante able to score in quick succession to essentially kill the tie.

The Premier League outfit did have their chances with Danny Welbeck denied on several occasions, but injury-hit Brighton need a miracle to overturn a four-goal deficit in next week’s second leg.

De Zerbi and opposite number Daniele De Rossi exchanged a number of pleasantries on Wednesday with the Seagulls boss labelled a “genius”, but it was a different story out in the streets of the Italian capital with two Brighton fans stabbed the day before the match.

Both fortunately only suffered minor wounds ahead of the club’s first ever European knockout tie and a hostile atmosphere greeted the away players onto the pitch.

It was almost 1-0 inside three minutes when Leonardo Spinazzola was given too much time on the left and picked out Chelsea loanee Lukaku, whose header was brilliantly tipped over by Jason Steele.

Steele was at fault for Roma’s next opportunity after a wayward pass gifted possession to the hosts, although Lukaku could only drag his effort wide.

It had largely been one-way traffic but Brighton provided a reminder of their threat when Simon Adingra – one of six changes from Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Fulham – saw his cross deflected onto the post by Roma’s Evan Ndicka.

That chanced settled Brighton, who had just started to dictate possession when they were cut open for the opener after 12 minutes.

Leandro Paredes threaded a superb through ball from inside his own half, which Lewis Dunk was unable to intercept and Dybala rounded Steele before he fired into the empty net.

Dybala’s joy was initially cut short when the offside flag was raised but a VAR check deemed the Argentina attacker had been onside and the goal stood.

Brighton did respond well to going behind and more joy for Adingra down the left created a chance for Welbeck after 26 minutes, but Mile Svilar brilliantly saved with his feet.

Lukaku headed another opportunity off target soon after before Paul van Hecke deflected a Lorenzo Pellegrini shot wide as Roma retained their dominance and that turned into a second goal with 43 minutes on the clock.

Another Paredes ball forward caused Brighton problems and captain Dunk’s poor touch allowed Lukaku to race through and slot beyond Steele for his 18th goal of the season.

The visitors almost responded instantly after Adingra crossed in for Welbeck, but Svilar produced a flying save to thwart the header.

De Zerbi introduced Ansu Fati at half-time, but Roma should have made it 3-0 early into the second period only for Steele to deny Lukaku’s latest header.

The next goal felt crucial and more Adingra magic created another opening for Welbeck, who could only scoop over from inside the area.

It was a pivotal miss with Roma able to grab their third and fourth goals in quick succession to all but kill the tie.

Mancini poked home from Stephan El Shaarawy’s cross after 64 minutes and although the defender appeared marginally offside, a VAR check awarded the goal.

Four minutes later it was 4-0 as El Shaarawy again burst down the left and found Cristante, who headed home to ensure De Zerbi endured a night to forget on his return to Italy.

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