Brighton’s first European campaign ends with futile victory over Roma

Danny Welbeck  - Brighton's first European campaign ends with futile victory over Roma
Danny Welbeck scored his first Europa League goal of the season - PA/Gareth Fuller

Brighton’s first European campaign may have come to an end but they went out on a high, beating a Roma side who had built what proved to be an unassailable 4-0 lead in Italy. Danny Welbeck scored the only goal after 37 minutes, but no more followed despite their best efforts.

However, Brighton supporters can add this to memories of famous wins in the Europa League over former European champions Marseille and Ajax, and the club and players will want more of the same.

“Our team played with pride,” Roberto De Zerbi, the Brighton head coach, said. “I knew my players were capable of responding this way. They were hurting after Rome, as I was. I believe in my players and I know we can fight to reach another historic target, another season in European competition.”

The home fans were in great voice in the opening stages, despite the mountain their team had to climb. In the first five minutes set-pieces taken by Pascal Gross led to near misses from Jan Paul van Hecke and Welbeck. Brighton could not afford to concede an early goal and Simon Adingra’s risky cross-field pass gave the ball to Sardar Azmoun, but his angled shot went wide.

But at the other end Lewis Dunk had a free-kick blocked, Billy Gilmour volleyed over and Gross pulled a shot wide. When Azmoun’s overhead kick looped in but was ruled out for a high boot, it seemed it might be Brighton’s night. That impression grew when they took the lead. Welbeck advanced down the left, exchanged passes with Pervis Estupinan and curled the ball past goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

In the second half, De Zerbi rolled the dice with a series of substitutions and chances came and went, the best when Svilar somehow blocked a close-range header by Adingra from Welbeck’s cross. A goal then and momentum might have built again. Instead it felt like the moment Brighton’s hopes of prolonging their European tour finally slipped away.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.