The supporters who booed Brighton after their stalemate with Leeds would do well to watch this game back to gain a greater appreciation of Graham Potter, whose talented side stayed true to their beliefs before rescuing themselves in style, Neal Maupay’s spectacular overhead kick denying West Ham victory at the death.
Perhaps it had to be this way. Brighton have not won in nine league games, let in a dreadful goal from a set piece and their finishing was comical at times, but they remain one of the most watchable teams in the division. They will not change their approach for anyone and, for all their maddening tendencies in front of goal, it would have been a travesty if they had left east London with nothing after making West Ham look like anything but Champions League hopefuls.
Brighton could make their point by pointing to Yves Bissouma’s control of midfield, Tariq Lamptey’s impact off the bench and their refusal to let the missed chances weigh them down. West Ham’s centre-backs, Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson, could never relax with Maupay hounding them. The Brighton striker was relentless despite fluffing an early opportunity and there was also redemption for Robert Sánchez, who made up for his part in West Ham’s goal by making fine saves from Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen in the dying stages.
Potter saw character from his side, who lost Adam Webster and Jeremy Sarmiento to injury in the first half. Brighton were under intense pressure at the end, Marc Cucurella clearing Zouma’s header off the line, but they survived. “I’m happy for Neal,” Potter said. “I don’t care how they go in. I wasn’t going to complain.”
Winless in three matches, West Ham could not grumble either. David Moyes was furious that VAR intervened when it appeared that his side had gone 2-0 up at the start of the second half, but they did not do enough after going ahead via Tomas Soucek’s first goal since the opening day.
West Ham, who fell too deep in the second half, are not playing well. Antonio was blunt again up front, their passing has lost its zip and they are only a point above fifth-placed Arsenal, who visit Manchester United on Thursday. “I didn’t think we played well,” Moyes said. “We didn’t keep the ball well enough.”
It had threatened to be the same old story for Brighton. There was an inevitability to them falling behind once Maupay had spurned the game’s first chance, firing wide after enterprising play from Bissouma. Maupay had not scored since 27 September and Brighton paid for their profligacy when West Ham exposed their failings at set pieces. Pablo Fornals lifted a corner to the near post in the fifth minute, Sánchez flapped unconvincingly on his line and Soucek easily glanced home.
Brighton, who escaped when Fornals volleyed against the bar, gradually regained their composure. They almost equalised when Maupay brilliantly released Jakub Moder, who was denied by Lukasz Fabianski.
The pattern continued at the start of the second half, Brighton passing up promising situations, and West Ham thought they had pulled clear when Sánchez made a mess of another corner. The goalkeeper’s weak punch hit Dawson before bouncing in off the substitute Shane Duffy only for Antonio to be ruled offside after an interminable VAR review.
Brighton rallied, Adam Lallana sweeping a shot wide. Bowen went close at the other end, but West Ham were nervy. They were too cautious and they cracked when Lamptey skipped past Arthur Masuaku, who had been introduced to track the speedy right-back. The cross was inviting and Maupay, holding off Dawson, was ready and waiting. West Ham, who have not beaten Brighton since 2012, had no response.