Luton scored twice in the opening two minutes and 17 seconds en route to a stunning 4-0 win against Brighton at Kenilworth Road.

Aided by a superb hat-trick from striker Elijah Adebayo, this was comfortably the hosts’ biggest Premier League win and their most commanding performance.

It was earned in swashbuckling style as they dismissed an insipid Brighton to move out of the relegation zone for the first time in nearly two months.

Chiedozie Ogbene also netted during a first half in which Roberto De Zerbi’s side simply could not cope with what came their way, a shadow of the team that won the corresponding fixture 4-1 on the opening weekend.

Luton made a start beyond manager Rob Edwards’ most rose-tinted expectations.

Adebayo headed his first after 19 seconds. Ogbene received the ball on the edge of the box and crossed to the far post towards Carlton Morris.

The Hatters captain, leaping determinedly above his marker, nodded back across goal to Adebayo, who got there before goalkeeper Jason Steele to convert.

Brighton barely had time to draw breath before it was two.

Albert Sambi Lokonga’s pinpoint pass dropped in behind the visitors’ defence, which had pushed up, leaving a straight race to the ball between Ogbene and Steele.

It was won comfortably by the fleet-footed Luton winger who toed it beyond the keeper and, with 137 seconds on the clock, poked into an empty goal to cap a breathtaking start.

Rarely, if ever, have Brighton under De Zerbi been so blown away as they were in the opening 25 minutes.

Jordan Clark came close to inflicting further damage when he cut in on his left foot and had a shot blocked by the legs of Steele.

By then, De Zerbi had already lost James Milner to injury, with any pre-game ploy to stymie Luton sinking into disarray.

The stats said Brighton had enjoyed 60 per cent possession but almost all of it had been in their own half, passing themselves in circles in a bid to navigate Luton’s ravenous high pressing.

Pascal Gross scooped a shot more in hope than expectation from outside the box as the Seagulls struggled to come to terms with their predicament.

Lewis Dunk stopped Adebayo with a finely-timed last-ditch slide inside the six-yard box as the striker bore down threatening to wrap the game up after 35 minutes, before Clark had his second good try of the night deflect inches wide.

It was a momentary reprieve.

Adebayo’s second and Luton’s third was a gem and owed everything to the timing of the striker’s run, hanging just behind Brighton’s defensive line until Ross Barkley released his pass.

The finish ripped past Steele at his near post.

Brighton had won three of their previous 15 league games, success this season season being propped up by progress in Europe and in the FA Cup.

Here, they showed nothing of the form that saw them start the campaign with five wins out of six.

Luton’s goals were getting easier to come by.

In the 55th minute Adebayo completed his hat-trick, heading in Alfie Doughty’s corner from amongst a static Brighton defence, the only movement towards the ball coming from striker Joao Pedro who inadvertently flicked it into his opposite number’s path.

Thomas Kaminski made a late save from Danny Welbeck which was worthy of his outfield team-mates’ efforts.

For Brighton, it had been a chastening night.

Roberto De Zerbi believes in-form Brighton top scorer Joao Pedro must sustain performances over 90 minutes to take the final step in becoming a “great, great player”.

Brazilian forward Pedro increased his tally for the season to 18 goals in all competitions with a hat-trick during Saturday’s 5-2 FA Cup win at Sheffield United.

The 22-year-old – a £30million summer signing from Watford – opened his Albion account on the first weekend of the campaign in a 4-1 victory at home to Tuesday evening’s Premier League opponents Luton.

“Joao Pedro’s DNA is of a top player,” said Brighton boss De Zerbi.

“The target of Joao is to play better and better and to keep this mentality because now he’s showing a great mentality, a mentality he needs and we need.

“He’s becoming amazing as a striker because his quality to play in ball possession, to play in between the lines, to make assists were important but in terms of goals, he’s improving a lot.

“The last step to become a great, great player is to play 90 minutes in the same way.

“Sometimes he starts the game not pushing off his best and I would like at the beginning of the game until the end of the game the same mentality.”

Pedro is likely to receive a hostile reception from Luton fans due to his Watford connections.

De Zerbi feels Kenilworth Road is one of the most challenging places to go in the top flight.

The relegation-threatened Hatters have beaten Newcastle and drawn with Liverpool on home soil this term, in addition to suffering single-goal defeats to Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.

“Playing in the Luton stadium is one of the toughest games in the Premier League because they have a great intensity,” said De Zerbi.

“People think Brighton have to win and it’s normal if Brighton win in Luton but in football there are no easy games and if you want to win you have to push until the end.

“Arsenal and Man City, they won a game at the end of the game and I watched both games and they were very, very difficult games for both teams.”

Seventh-placed Brighton have been linked with a move for Leicester midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall before the transfer window closes.

De Zerbi, who has a close relationship with Foxes boss Enzo Maresca, says Dewsbury-Hall has “great quality” but was tight-lipped on the speculation.

“I don’t know anything about him (personally); I know him as a player,” the Italian said of the 25-year-old.

“He has great quality but it’s not my business speaking about other players, especially because Enzo Maresca is my friend and I want to be correct with him.”

Brighton remain without Joel Veltman, Solly March, Simon Adingra, Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso and Ansu Fati.

Barcelona loanee Fati has returned to training following an injury sustained in November but will not be rushed back into first-team action.

“He’s a risk and he’s important for us in the second part of the season,” said De Zerbi.

“We can’t take any risks in this moment.”

Roberto De Zerbi believes there is more to come from hat-trick hero Joao Pedro after he fired Brighton into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Pedro scored his first career treble to earn the Seagulls a 5-2 win at Sheffield United, with Facundo Buonanotte’s brilliant goal and Danny Welbeck’s late effort supplementing an impressive performance at Bramall Lane.

The Brazilian striker, a £30million summer signing from Watford, took his tally to 18 for the season in all competitions but De Zerbi wants more.

“I consider Joao Pedro a big potential player and my expectations for Joao are bigger than he is showing,” the Italian said.

“He is playing very well and he is scoring a lot of goals but I think he can reach another higher level and I push for it because I am working for Brighton but I am working for my players to improve them and for them to be better.”

Brighton made the semi-finals of this competition last season and are dreaming of another run, but have a gruelling schedule coming up with midweek Premier League and cup games before their Europa League campaign resumes.

“We try to play every competition in the best way,” he said. “I don’t know the future, in my head there is only one thing, the Luton game on Tuesday evening.

“We have to think game-by-game and competition-by-competition.”

The Blades rallied from 2-0 down in the first half to draw level thanks to goals from Gus Hamer and Will Osula, but they were outplayed at Bramall Lane.

They were also beaten semi-finalists in last season’s competition but can now focus on their relegation battle in the Premier League, which starts with a midweek trip to Crystal Palace.

Boss Chris Wilder said: “You don’t say it before but when the draw comes out it is a real difficult one to deal with, especially at home with the way they play.

“If we’d have limited them in terms of the decisions we made defensively and made better decisions at the top end of the pitch and had more quality it might have been a tighter game and we could have got a result.

“You just get punished, you can’t give away two penalties at home and try and win a game of football. I am quite happy in the terms of how we played.”

Joao Pedro’s hat-trick sent Brighton through to the FA Cup fifth round with a 5-2 win at Sheffield United.

Pedro scored twice from the spot and crashed in an 18-yard drive after Facundo Buonanotte’s fine goal had given the Seagulls an early lead, with Danny Welbeck scoring at the death to seal an emphatic victory.

The Blades had battled back from 2-0 down to level thanks to goals from Gus Hamer and Will Osula but they lost to the better team at Bramall Lane.

Both sides were beaten semi-finalists in last year’s competition but it is Roberto De Zerbi’s side who are dreaming of another cup run while United can concentrate on trying to avoid Premier League relegation.

Brighton had already seen a goal chalked out for offside when they went ahead in sublime fashion in the 14th minute.

Buonanotte picked the ball up in the middle of the hosts’ half and jinked past a tackle before unleashing an unstoppable drive that found the top corner from 25 yards.

United would have been level four minutes later had it not been for some heroic defending from Jan Paul van Hecke and Igor Julio as they blocked shots from Osula and Hamer in quick succession.

That proved important as Brighton went 2-0 up just before the half-hour as a fine piece of skill from Pedro saw him burst into the area where he was clipped by Jayden Bogle.

The striker picked himself up and converted from the spot for his 16th goal of the season.

Sheffield United got one back in the 42nd minute when Osula broke clear down the right and his cross was palmed out by Brighton goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen straight into the path of Hamer, who fired home.

And in the eighth minute of time added on they got themselves level as Osula headed home Bogle’s cross from close range.

The drama continued in the second half as Brighton regained the lead seven minutes after the restart as Pedro scored his second penalty, stroking home after Bogle handled a cross.

Bogle tried to make amends at the other end as he was on the end of a lightning counter attack but saw his goalbound effort blocked by Pervis Estupinan.

Pedro claimed his first career hat-trick in the 67th minute, killing the tie with a low finish into the bottom corner.

United never threatened to get back into the game and Brighton made it five deep into added time when Welbeck fired under Blades debutant goalkeeper Ivo Grbic.

Roberto De Zerbi admitted depleted Brighton are dropping too many Premier League points following a frustrating goalless stalemate with Wolves.

Albion dominated possession at the Amex Stadium as they stretched their unbeaten home run to a club-record nine top-flight fixtures to climb to seventh, above Manchester United on goal difference.

But the Seagulls, who lacked a cutting edge on Monday evening, have drawn five of those fixtures and a league-high eight matches overall.

Brighton boss De Zerbi feels a lengthy injury list and European commitments are impacting his side’s league results.

“We have to understand the situation of injuries, we have to understand how much energy we spent in the Europa League, in FA Cup, we have to analyse if we will be lucky or unlucky,” said the Italian, whose side drew 0-0 with West Ham in their previous game.

“In the last two games in the Premier League we have been unlucky because two points after two games with good quality to win the game, we are losing too many points.

“We have been unlucky because five draws (at home), for example Sheffield United, Burnley, Fulham and Wolverhampton, we deserved to win all of the games.

“We didn’t play the best game in my time (tonight) but we created a condition to win the game.

“Yes, we made some mistakes in the crucial part of the pitch and for it we didn’t win.”

Brighton controlled the play against Wolves but rarely threatened.

Facundo Buonanotte saw an early diving header cleared off the line by Tommy Doyle, while Wanderers captain Maximilian Kilman hit the frame of his own goal.

De Zerbi remains without the creative talents of Kaoru Mitoma, Simon Adingra, Ansu Fati, Solly March and Julio Enciso but dismissed talk of recruiting reinforcements this month.

“No, transfer market is not my business,” he said.

“I have to be focused on my work and my work is to give organisation, to give a style, to try the condition to play well and make points.

“We are seventh place on the table and if you consider how many problems we had in the first part of the season we have to be proud because we are playing better than the situation we are enduring.”

Wolves were thrashed 6-0 in this fixture last season but could have snatched victory.

Pedro Neto, Matheus Cunha and Mario Lemina each went close for the counter-attacking visitors.

In the absence of 10-goal top scorer Hwang Hee-chan, Neto played as a central striker on the south coast on his first start since October.

Wolves boss Gary O’Neil was impressed with the impact of the Portugal forward but hopes to bolster his striking options during the transfer window.

“We always had that threat,” said O’Neil. “Pedro was good, probably played a little bit longer than we would have liked ideally.

“I just felt there was still a goal in him so tried to push him a little bit more than was ideal but pleased that he got through it.

“Hopefully over the next few days we can do something in the window that can help us in that area.

“Until then we work hard to try and maximise what we have in the room and I felt we did that well today.

“The main thing was we looked like a team, we stuck together and when it got tough in certain situations we looked like we could cope and always had that threat.”

Brighton failed to score at home for the first time in 23 matches as they were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Wolves at the Amex Stadium.

Albion dominated possession in a tetchy Premier League contest but lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Wanderers captain Maximilian Kilman hit the frame of his own goal early in the second half, while Pedro Neto, Matheus Cunha and Mario Lemina went close for the counter-attacking visitors.

A largely forgettable encounter was at least memorable for Seagulls midfielder James Milner, whose 633rd Premier League appearance lifted him clear of Ryan Giggs on the competition’s all-time list, behind only record holder Gareth Barry.

Brighton climb to seventh, above Manchester United on goal difference, courtesy of the stalemate, while Wolves move level on points with 10th-placed Newcastle.

Albion won this fixture 6-0 last season – their biggest Premier League victory and Wolves’ heaviest loss.

Danny Welbeck was one of three players to score twice that day and he threatened to inflict to more misery on Wanderers during a bright beginning for the hosts.

After forcing a corner with a deflected shot off Matt Doherty, the former England forward climbed high to flick on Pervis Estupinan’s 11th-minute delivery, only for Facundo Buonanotte’s back-post diving header to be hacked off the line by Tommy Doyle.

Wolves were just about managing to contain the lively hosts and almost snatched a 22nd-minute lead.

Portugal forward Neto, making his first start since October in the absence of 10-goal top scorer Hwang Hee-chan, was afforded time and space on the edge of the Seagulls’ 18-yard box but his curling effort flew narrowly wide of the left post.

Wolves boss Gary O’Neil was left frustrated on the half-hour mark when Brighton midfielder Billy Gilmour escaped punishment after cynically halting Cunha’s off-the-ball run as Neto broke down the left.

Tempers then threatened to boil over on the touchline during a flashpoint sparked by a clash between Gilmour and Wolves defender Craig Dawson, which led to the visitors’ goalkeeping coach Neil Cutler being booked by referee Craig Pawson.

The fractious ending to a tight opening period persisted with Cunha receiving a yellow card for a challenge on Gilmour and then confronting the officials following the half-time whistle.

Brazil forward Cunha almost channelled his sense of injustice into the opening goal within seconds of the restart but his initial effort was repelled by Seagulls goalkeeper Jason Steele before he poked over the rebound.

Wolves skipper Kilman then diverted the ball on to the base of his own right post as he slid in to intercept Jack Hinshelwood’s cross before Neto was denied by Steele as the end-to-end action continued.

In-form Wolves were seeking to register four successive top-flight wins for the first time since January 1972 and looked the more likely to break the deadlock in the closing stages.

Neto flashed across goal before the onrushing Steele was fortunate to escape being rounded by Cunha and then kept out a powerful drive from Lemina.

Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi admits he will demand more from Joao Pedro even though only Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah have scored more this season.

The Brazilian’s late double in a 4-2 victory at Stoke avoided a potential FA Cup upset and took his personal tally to 15 in his maiden campaign for the Seagulls.

It equalled Glenn Murray’s 15-goal haul from the 2018-19 season and the club’s best return in a top-flight campaign since Michael Robinson (22) in 1980-81.

Manchester City’s Haaland (19) and Liverpool’s Salah (18) are the only Premier League players to have have scored more in all competitions but De Zerbi believes that is the level to which the youngster has to aspire.

“I love Joao Pedro and I know his potential. I know how he can improve and become important for us,” said the Italian.

“I would like always something more because for us this level of performance is enough but I think he can reach a higher level and to reach that level he can play better, he can push more and more.

“I would like him to start the game in the beginning not in the second half or after 20 minutes and I will tell him my opinion.”

De Zerbi admits he had never heard of Joao Pedro when the club lined up the £30million summer transfer from Watford.

“The credit for Joao Pedro is to the club. The recruitment department told me the name of Joao, I didn’t know Joao before he came with us,” he added.

Pedro’s goals in the final 19 minutes were decisive as his side had recovered from Jan Paul Van Hecke’s own goal to lead through Pervis Estupinan and Lewis Dunk only for Lewis Baker’s penalty to put the outcome in some doubt.

Asked how important it was to avoid a replay, De Zerbi said: “Especially if you think how many games we played from the beginning of the season.

“To reach the last 16 of the Europa League and to win today means we have to play three games less and that’s important in this moment if you consider how many players we have .”

This was Stoke head coach Steven Schumacher’s first defeat in his fifth match in charge and he admits he is still learning about his squad.

“Whenever you play against a Premier League team you learn lessons about what you have got,” he said.

“I learned our team has got character. When we conceded a goal just before half-time it could have knocked the wind out of us but it didn’t and we caused Brighton a few problems.

“The difference is in the big moments they punish you.”

Joao Pedro scored twice late on as Brighton avoided an FA Cup upset at Championship side Stoke with a 4-2 comeback win.

The hosts – who had not beaten top-flight opposition in the competition since they reached the final in 2011 – had held the lead for 35 first-half minutes courtesy of Jan Paul Van Hecke’s own goal, after which Steven Schumacher’s team were the better side.

However, Brighton’s Ecuador left-back Pervis Estupinan let fly from 20 yards in the final minute of six added on before the interval and captain Lewis Dunk headed last season’s semi-finalists ahead just after the break.

Dunk’s raised arm conceded the penalty from which Lewis Baker equalised and it needed Pedro’s 14th and 15th goals of the season to see the Premier League team through in the final 19 minutes.

Schumacher is only five matches into his reign in the Potteries and this was his first defeat – although he has had four draws – but the way his players took the game to opponents 32 places above them offers hope for the 19th-placed second-tier club.

After Pedro’s early deflected shot looped just wide of the post the momentum was all Stoke’s with Mehdi Leris forcing the first save from Bart Verbruggen, one of four changes made by Roberto De Zerbi.

It was from that right-hand channel that Stoke took the lead as Dunk’s intended pass for Pedro was intercepted by Ki-Jana Hoever, stepping out from centre-back, and he slid in South Korean midfielder Bae Jun-ho, whose low cross was turned in by Van Hecke.

The 21-year-old Hoever, performing a hybrid role as the third centre-back stepping into midfield, was at the heart of all Stoke’s best play and twice set up Wesley, who curled wide and headed straight at Verbruggen.

But just seconds from the break goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, making his debut after signing on loan from Leicester 24 hours earlier having not played for the Foxes, was beaten by Estupinan’s drive and the advantage swung to Brighton.

Dunk had been a threat from set-pieces and he headed home Billy Gilmour’s far-post cross just moments after Daniel Johnson and Sead Haksabanovic both got in each other’s way as they ran onto Hoever’s inviting cutback.

Stoke responded with Wouter Burger’s 25-yard shot, turned behind by Verbruggen, and from the resulting corner substitute Luke McNally’s header hit the raised arm of Dunk, who knew little about it but had no VAR to save him and Baker drove home from the spot.

At that point the game could have gone either way but Brighton’s greater experience told as Pedro headed in Pascal Gross’ cross and then converted Van Hecke’ square pass as the visitors made it past the third round for the seventh time in eight seasons.

Weary West Ham and burned-out Brighton served up a lifeless goalless draw to dent both sides’ top-five ambitions.

Two makeshift teams were missing 16 first-team players between them through injury, illness or suspension, and in West Ham’s case also due to the Africa Cup of Nations which has cost them the services of in-form forward Mohammed Kudus for a month.

Given that it was West Ham’s ninth game in a month, and Brighton’s eighth, managers David Moyes and Roberto De Zerbi would probably have shaken hands on a draw before kick-off and gone to watch the darts instead.

As it was, 60,000 people had to battle a storm to get to the London Stadium before sitting through a match played at a snail’s pace.

It was Brighton’s first goalless draw in 48 Premier League games, their last coming against Nottingham Forest in October 2022.

There was at least something to celebrate for midfielder James Milner, whose 632nd Premier League appearance moved him level with former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs for second on the all-time list.

During an opening half an hour of new year lethargy, West Ham had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away when Edson Alvarez tripped over Billy Gilmour’s leg. Emerson Palmieri then scuffed a shot wide.

James Ward-Prowse saw a volley well saved by Jason Steele before Jarrod Bowen’s cross was headed over the crossbar by Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Said Benrahma, left out of Algeria’s AFCON squad, was handed a rare chance by Moyes in the absence of Kudus and Lucas Paqueta and the winger made one mazy run inside from the left wing only to curl his shot wide.

West Ham were marginally the more adventurous team but Brighton probably had the best two chances of the first half.

First Ben Johnson was booked for a foul on Facundo Buonanotte 25 yards out and from Pascal Gross’ cross, Alphonse Areola palmed away a far-post Danny Welbeck header and then saved the rebound from Jack Hinshelwood.

Gross then got in between West Ham’s centre-halves but planted his header from Milner’s cross too close to Areola.

After the break Welbeck’s fierce shot forced a fine diving save from Areola with Milner, who turns 38 on Thursday, skying the rebound.

West Ham should have broken the deadlock on the hour when Benrahma’s cross was deflected into the path of Tomas Soucek but the Czech midfielder stabbed his effort wide.

But Brighton finished stronger and Evan Ferguson, on as a substitute, almost had an immediate impact with a low drive which beat the dive of Areola but rolled inches past the far post.

Jakub Moder blazed over from close range and Areola made another decent save to deny Adam Lallana and preserve a point for the hosts.

Roberto De Zerbi saluted Joao Pedro after his two-goal display against Tottenham, but admitted he fears the forward’s stay at Brighton may be brief.

Pedro starred in a thrilling 4-2 win for the Seagulls on Thursday night, scoring twice from the penalty spot and also setting up Jack Hinshelwood’s opener.

Brazilian attacker Pedro only moved to Brighton in May for a fee in the region of £30million, but has hit 13 goals for his new club, with seven of them in the last nine matches.


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De Zerbi said: “He is the best player on the pitch, I think. He played another incredible game.

“I am really pleased for his improvement on mentality, on attitude. In defensive phase, incredible because he defended 90 minutes like a centre-back in terms of mentality.

“He is becoming, I think, a top player. I hope in the next year to work with him but I think it will be very tough.”

While Pedro tormented Tottenham all night long, it was a superb team display by Brighton, especially for the first hour on the south coast.

To top off an excellent end to 2023, Pervis Estupinan marked his first Premier League appearance since September with a superb 25-yard strike.

“It’s an incredible goal but the most important thing about Estupinan is we recover an important player because we are losing a lot of players on injuries,” De Zerbi admitted.

“We cannot play with 10 or nine players.”

Estupinan’s return from a muscle problem occurred at half-time with fellow left-back Igor Julio forced off with a tendon problem.

Youngster Facundo Buonanotte also had to be replaced with an injury concern and De Zerbi admitted they are initial doubts for the trip to West Ham next week.

He added: “Igor and Facundo suffered injuries. I don’t know if important and I don’t know for the next game in West Ham’s stadium but Igor couldn’t play the second half (due to) a tendon injury.

“And Facundo is a muscular problem.”

De Zerbi also fielded questions on Japan winger Kaoru Mitoma, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury which has placed in doubt his participation in next month’s Asian Cup.

“I hope it can be less than four (weeks), but the medical staff say four, five or six weeks and I am working for Brighton, not for Japan. I can say nothing for Japan,” the Italian insisted.

“I hope for you that Kaoru can play in Asian Cup but I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Brighton have confirmed long-serving board members Derek Chapman and Marc Sugarman will step down as non-executive directors on June 30.

Chapman has been involved with the club since 1999, while Sugarman first joined in 2009.

Ange Postecoglou defended his “tired” Tottenham team after they were blown away in a six-goal thriller at Brighton.

Joao Pedro struck a brace of penalties while Jack Hinshelwood and Pervis Estupinan produced fine strikes in a well deserved 4-2 victory for Roberto De Zerbi’s men.

While Alejo Veliz and Ben Davies scored in the final 10 minutes, Spurs were second best for much of the night and suffered a fifth Premier League defeat of the campaign.

Both clubs have faced numerous injuries during recent months, with Brighton without eight players for this contest and Tottenham nine, which led to Postecoglou taking a philosophical view.

Postecoglou said: “Fair to say we were looking a bit tired and lacked our usual sharpness, especially at the start of the game. We’ve been starting games well.

“I guess that’s understandable, we’ve been on this run for a while now and asking players to perform at levels. It’s very demanding the way we play, physically, and today we kind of looked like a team that wasn’t at its sharpest.

“Brighton are a good side and they took advantage of that. Ultimately what I do know is the players, everything they had they gave and that’s all I can ask for.”

Pedro found the unmarked Hinshelwood to fire beyond Guglielmo Vicario, who had twice denied Danny Welbeck early on, and the Brazilian then rolled home a spot-kick after Dejan Kulusevski was penalised for pulling Welbeck.

Vicario was forced into action several more times, while James Milner also hit the post before Estupinan capped his comeback appearance with a goal from 25 yards.

The offside flag had denied Richarlison twice but Spurs’ miserable night was compounded when substitute Giovani Lo Celso brought down Evan Ferguson and Pedro slotted home to make it 4-0.

Tottenham fought back with Veliz scoring his first goal in English football with nine minutes left before Ben Davies headed home at the back post, but it finished 4-2.

Postecoglou had no qualms with either penalty decision, although did take umbrage with VAR not punishing Brighton captain Lewis Dunk for a poor tackle on Kulusevski in the build-up to Veliz scoring.

“It was obviously clear and obvious because it only took him (Jarred Gillett) three minutes to see it on the screen, and VAR picked up everything today except the one tackle which nearly cost me another player,” Postecoglou added.

“It’s been difficult this whole run. We’ve been stretched for a very long time and we’ve just tried to play on through it.

“We’re only in the position we are because of the enormous efforts of the players to do jobs that normally is not in their brief, but they do it willingly and they give everything. Today we fell short but not for the want of trying.”

De Zerbi toasted a brilliant end to a special year where Brighton finished sixth, made the FA Cup semi-finals and progressed into the last 16 of the Europa League.

“Yes, the best way to finish the year,” he added.

“We played a great game because we show incredible courage to defend men-to-men for 90 minutes and to play with that courage, that quality, that style.

“I am sorry we concede two goals and I am sorry we have no clean sheet.”

Tottenham’s Premier League revival was halted in emphatic fashion after two Joao Pedro penalties and a stunning strike from Pervis Estupinan helped injury-hit Brighton record a thumping 4-2 win.

Spurs arrived at the Amex Stadium seeking a fourth successive top-flight success to reclaim fourth spot from reigning champions Manchester City.

But the north London club were ripped apart as Pedro’s double and Estupinan’s thunderbolt added to Jack Hinshelwood’s opener.

Tottenham, who claimed late consolations through substitute Alejo Veliz and Ben Davies, could easily have lost by more as rampant Albion twice hit the woodwork and had a Facundo Buonanotte effort disallowed.

Richarlison struck a post for the visitors and was twice denied by the offside flag, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg also hit the woodwork.

Yet, on this evidence, Champions League qualification looks a distant dream for Ange Postecoglou’s side, who had registered just one point from 15 before their recent upturn in form. Victory lifts Roberto De Zerbi’s hosts above Newcastle into eighth.

Depleted were missing eight first-team players while their visitors also had a lengthy list of absentees.

One-time Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck should have opened the scoring for Albion inside six minutes when he was twice denied by goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, but the Seagulls deservedly edged ahead with 11 minutes on the clock.

Tottenham’s porous defence failed to halt Pedro’s mazy waltz across the 18-yard box and his offload was emphatically dispatched into the roof of the net by 18-year-old defender Hinshelwood.

Brazilian forward Pedro duly doubled the lead with a spot-kick awarded following VAR intervention.

Spurs thought they had escaped when Jan Paul van Hecke’s header from a Pascal Gross corner came back off the right post but replays showed Dejan Kulusevski pulled down Welbeck as he attempted to reach the rebound and Pedro coolly rolled home from 12 yards.

Stunned Spurs showed little response and were in danger of falling further behind. James Milner rattled the right post with a superb curling effort before Buonanotte’s clinical finish was flagged offside.

The away side almost gifted Brighton a third when Pedro was sent through by a calamitous back-pass from Pedro Porro, only to see his attempted dink pushed wide by Vicario.

Postecoglou would undoubtedly have been happy to reach the break only two behind, albeit his side’s predicament nearly improved as Richarlison swept against the outside of the left post in added time.

The Brazilian then put the ball in the net having already been ruled offside and then curled wide before again being denied by the flag of assistant referee Darren Cann.

Tottenham’s frustration was quickly compounded. Seagulls substitute Estupinan, making his first appearance since November 9 due to injury, did the damage, unleashing a thunderous, dipping effort into the top right corner from around 25 yards following Milner’s short corner.

Tormentor-in-chief Pedro rubbed salt into Spurs’ wounds 15 minutes from time by dispatching his second penalty after Evan Ferguson was brought down by Giovani Lo Celso.

Veliz’s first goal in English football, after Kulusevski and Son Heung-min capitalised on sloppy Seagulls defending, eased the embarrassment before Davies’ header from a Porro cross increased the anxiety among home fans.

But Brighton weathered a frantic nine minutes of added time, during which Hojbjerg hit the base of the right post, to claim the points.

Ange Postecoglou believes Tottenham will do their January transfer business earlier than usual after the club were hit by another injury blow.

Spurs travel to Brighton on Thursday night and will be without centre-back Cristian Romero, who has been ruled out for four to five weeks with a hamstring strain.

Romero joins a growing injury list that includes Micky van de Ven, Rodrigo Bentancur and James Maddison, while next month Yves Bissouma, Pape Sarr and captain Son Heung-min will also be unavailable due to international commitments at the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup.

Tottenham have notoriously been active on transfer deadline-day in the winter window, signing Pedro Porro earlier this year and making a double swoop for Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski in 2022.

However, Postecoglou said: “Obviously if we can do business early, it’s great for us. Not just because of losing Romero but there’s a whole month there – why waste it?

“If you can bring them in early, even if they don’t play you can bed them into training and our style of football because it’s not like we’re going to sign somebody and they’ll hit the ground running.

“Whereas if you leave it towards the end of January, it’s potentially not until mid to end of February when they get up to speed, depending where they’re coming from, the league they’re coming from, so there’s a whole lot of moving parts.

“So, yes, I’d love to do something early in the window but even me saying that puts a challenge on us, because other clubs know we want to do something early.

“You’ve got to play the game, we’ll see what happens but I’m hopeful it will be much earlier than the end of the window before we bring someone in.”

Spurs hold an interest in Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo, but also have a long list of other targets in the centre-back area.

Romero’s injury continues Tottenham’s theme of having one player back before another joins the treatment table with Destiny Udogie available for the trip to Brighton after suspension.

Postecoglou’s team also face Bournemouth at home on Sunday, but the Australian has been impressed by the resilience shown amid the ongoing injury crisis.

He said: “Someone was saying before, ‘when all these players come back,’ and I was saying, ‘it never works that way’.

“I’m not the only one, you can see other clubs going through it as well. We’ve been going through it for quite a while to be fair but I really like the attitude everyone’s taking internally – the coaches and players.

“We’ve still been disappointed with our losses, still been disappointed if we’re not playing our football, that’s the most important thing.

“I’m sure they’ll come a point when we will be much healthier in terms of our playing stocks, but I like the fact we’re winning games and playing decent football without some of those players.


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Son is expected to link up with the South Korea squad after Bournemouth’s New Year’s Eve visit but Postecoglou, who won the Asian Cup as Australia manager in 2015, has no qualms with his captain missing key January club fixtures.

“I rank it pretty highly,” Postecoglou said.

“A lot of European fans see the Euros as important so it is the same as that for the Asian Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations.

“I hope Sonny goes on to finish runner-up to Australia again. I’d be really happy about that.”

Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou has been dealt another injury blow after he confirmed Cristian Romero will miss the next four to five weeks with a hamstring strain.

Romero only returned from a three-match suspension at the beginning of December but is now set for another spell on the sidelines.

The Argentina international sustained the injury during last weekend’s 2-1 victory against Everton and a scan this week has revealed a hamstring strain.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s trip to Brighton, Postecoglou said: “Not so great with Romero.

“He had a scan the other day and has got a hamstring strain. We are looking at probably four or five weeks for him.

“Disappointing to lose him, for sure. We obviously missed him with the suspension and now we’ve just got him back and he steadied things up.

“Now he will be missing again for quite a chunk of time.”

Romero’s previous absence was compounded by centre-back partner Micky van de Ven being out with a hamstring injury.

Summer signing Van de Ven sustained the issue in the 4-1 loss to Chelsea in November, but is close to a return and revealed at the PDC World Darts Championship last week that he could be back training in two weeks.

Postecoglou was cautious with a timeline, although admitted the trip to Manchester United on January 14 could be a comeback date for Van de Ven.

“He is getting closer,” Postecoglou confirmed.

“We will see him some time in January. I don’t think Burnley but Man United on the 14th potentially

“I don’t look at comeback dates until I see them training with us and he hasn’t been part of the group.

“He is not due to be part of the group this week so we’ll see how he is going at the end of this week. Once they start training with the group, that’s when we start thinking about if they are available.

“He is at the tail end of it, for sure and at some point, middle of January he could be available but how we use him after such a long absence will be depending on where he is at.”

Tottenham will have to assess Cristian Romero and Richarlison ahead of Thursday’s Premier League trip to Brighton.

The duo were forced off during Spurs’ hard-fought 2-1 win over Everton with hamstring and back injuries respectively.

A third consecutive win ensured Tottenham will spend Christmas Day in the top four, but Romero and Richarlison have provided boss Ange Postecoglou with more fitness concerns.

On Romero, Postecoglou revealed: “He felt tiredness in his hamstring just before half-time, so we had to take him off.”

The prognosis on Richarlison was better after the forward continued his fine form with a fourth goal in three matches on Saturday.

Spurs will check on the South American duo on Sunday before the players return to training on Boxing Day after being given Christmas Day off.

“Yeah, Richy’s OK. He’s kind of had a sore back in training (on Friday),” Postecoglou added.

“He wasn’t 100 per cent, but he was keen to start. He got through the game, pleasing for him that he took his goal well and worked hard for us, but I kind of knew that at some point I’d have to take him off.

“I don’t think it’s anything serious.”


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Tottenham will be hopeful Richarlison is fine, especially with top goalscorer Son Heung-min set to be away on international duty during January.

Son grabbed his 11th goal of the campaign in the Everton win, which betters his league tally from the 2022-23 season when he struggled with a sports hernia, which was only operated on in May.

Richarlison underwent the same procedure last month and has been backed to keep flourishing now he has solved the problem.

Spurs captain Son told PLP: “Richarlison went through similar to what I had last season.

“He is always hungry for goals and for work. He is playing pain-free and looks totally different as a player, so I’m very happy for him.

“If he carries on like this, he can be one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League.”

Postecoglou’s side could count themselves fortunate to claim all three points after Everton provided a tough test.

While Spurs went 2-0 up inside 18 minutes, Sean Dyche’s team created a number of chances with home goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario denying Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jack Harrison, James Garner and Arnaut Danjuma.

Everton also had the ball in the net in the 51st-minute through Calvert-Lewin, but referee Stuart Attwell ruled out the effort after VAR told him to review the incident, with Andre Gomes adjudged to have fouled Emerson Royal in the build-up.

Toffees defender Jarrad Branthwaite told the official club website: “It was never a foul in my eyes.

“They put it on the big screen, and I think everyone sees. Once (the referee) goes over to the monitor, he’s going to give it. It’s never a foul and it just kills the game. It should be a clear goal, for me.

“He hasn’t won the ball, but he hasn’t touched the man, and he just falls over. It’s one of those things and we can’t do anything about it now.”

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