Glenn Murray scores twice to help buoyant Brighton down Swansea

Nick Miller at the Amex Stadium on 24 February 2018

Chalk up another win for Chris Hughton over Carlos Carvalhal, in one of football’s most pleasant rivalries. When the Swansea manager was in charge of Sheffield Wednesday, the two competed good-naturedly for Championship promotion, but in six games the Portuguese only won one.

Make that one from seven now, after Brighton’s comfortable 4-1 win, inspired by a Glenn Murray double and delivered via a team performance to nourish souls on the south coast. The result pulled Brighton further away from the relegation zone but dunked Carvalhal’s men back into it, a reminder that their recent run of fine form will not be enough for survival.

One of Brighton’s problems this season has been goals but they scored four here and the victory might have been even more emphatic. “We could have got more, and there haven’t been too many occasions when we could say that,” said Hughton.

And yet the key moment of the game probably came just before the break, when Brighton were only 1-0 up and a low drive from Swansea’s Jordan Ayew hit the post, then rebounded on to the Brighton keeper, Mat Ryan. On a lucky day for the visitors that would have trickled in but it merely popped out to Martin Olsson, who dragged his follow-up wide.

From there Carvalhal was forced to change his system to go for goals, which did not come, and open his side up at the back. The Portuguese manager can usually be relied upon for an eccentric analogy for his side’s performance but this time we had to settle for something more conventional. “When you bet that high you can win all the money or lose it,” he said. “We knew if we scored one we could change the game. We gambled in the game and lost the gamble.”

The goals from the 34-year-old Murray were his sixth and seventh in his last nine games, and took him to 10 for the season: for what it’s worth, that’s one more goal than Alexandre Lacazette, and in less time. Murray gave Brighton the lead when Mike van der Hoorn brainlessly blundered into the small of his back in the 18th minute, Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Murray casually stroked the kick down the middle. The second came after José Izquierdo and Pascal Gross combined smartly down the left, the former cut back to Murray in the middle and he swept home.

This was a curiously disjointed game for long spells, frustration growing at some points in the stands after missed chances and a series of minor but unfavourable refereeing decisions. Indeed, the home fans gave referee Dean a standing ovation when one did go in their favour: as a man who tends to shirk attention, he was presumably very embarrassed.

Brighton put the result way beyond doubt when the impressive Gross played in Anthony Knockaert, who flicked delicately home with the outside of his left foot.

Swansea were ragged by this point, looking nothing like the side who have been revived by Carvalhal. This was just their second defeat in eight league games under the Portuguese, but it was a performance more reminiscent of the previous 20.

A Lewis Dunk own goal – his fourth of the season, a joint-record in the Premier League era – represented a late consolation for Swansea, but that was rendered even more meaningless when the substitute Jürgen Locadia turned home a fourth in the final minute.

“It’s big that we can kill games off,” said Hughton. “My first full season here in the Championship, we just missed out on promotion and we put that down to too many draws. At the moment, we’re in good form.”

Good form indeed. They are now unbeaten in six and this result inched them towards the top half of the table. They face Arsenal next Sunday, and bearing in mind how easily Swansea beat Arsène Wenger’s side a few weeks ago, don’t rule out an even bigger win then.

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