Saturday 29th December 2018 – Seagulls, Toffees, with a dash of ska and spicy noodles.

To the Amex Stadium, Falmer, near Brighton on the 13.38 train from Eastbourne (free train travel for match ticket holders). Mrs. M.A.E. and I stopped off at the Yummy Noodle Bar (****) in the Enterprise Centre in the station car park for sustenance. Though the Amex’s pies have been rated the equal best football ground pie (with the Emirates stadium) M.A.E. isn’t a great fan of the football pie in general. I think it is the all-pervading smell that puts me off – though no doubt to some it has a similar effect as a Proustian madeleine in summoning up past (footballing in this case) glories. Anyway they can’t be that good. Apparently Brighton have banned one of their supporters for allegedly throwing a pie at Crystal palace players on 4th December. So noodles it was – specifically the Singapore variety accompanied by a Singha beer (sadly the Tiger beer we get here isn’t brewed in Singapore, but in Manchester, so doesn’t fit with M.A.E.’s desire for authentic flavours).

On arrival at the stadium a crowd had gathered around a small stage where Brighton Ska tribute band the Gangsters (think the Specials, Madness, Bad Manners etc.) were in full blow, pork-pie hats on their heads. Sadly we only caught the last song and a half so too short to rate, but well worth seeking out. I must dig out that two-tone checkerboard tie.

The match. Obviously it is far too late to give a full report but it was a very important win for Brighton in their second season in the Premiership. Another advantage of living in East Sussex now is that it is relatively easy to watch Premier League football live in an excellent modern ground with a good view. Last season we made the mistake of watching Brighton and Hove Albion against some of the top sides and saw them outplayed by Chelsea and Liverpool and narrowly defeated by Leicester City (though they did record home wins against Arsenal and Manchester United later on to retain Premiership status). This season’s plan is to watch them against other mid- table sides in the hope of seeing more competitive football and it certainly worked in this case. At the start Everton were 8th with 27 points and Brighton 13th with 22. It wasn’t going to be an easy task. Everton had won their last game 5-1 and Albion were without a win in four matches. They were also without regular goalkeeper Mattie Ryan who was away on international duty with Australia. Everton had Richarlison, a £35 million Brazilian international forward, back in their starting line-up.

The first half was dominated by the Toffees with David Button in the Brighton goal spilling the ball after a Walcott cross (27 mins) and shortly afterwards saving from Richarlison. Richarlison showed himself as a true Brazillian prima donna by rolling around feigning injury on more than one occasion. After the break Albion were much more involved with several chances falling to their Romanian striker Florin Andone latching on to through balls from Davy Proper. After 59 minutes Andone won a corner and Jurgen Locadia put the resulting cross into the net only to see the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside. However referee Andrew Madley had seen that the ball was deflected off an Everton player on its way to Locadia, playing him onside. Excellent refereeing, subsequently supported by the TV replay. After that Everton threw everything at the Seagulls. Button deflected a Richarlison shot onto the post in the 61st minute. In the 86th minute Everton brought on three more strikers (i.e. they had four on the pitch). In the closing minutes Zouma headed onto the bar from a long Sigurdsson cross, but to no avail. Brighton had their first clean sheet since October. It must have been a long and rather depressing trip back to Liverpool for Evertonians. We managed to get seats for a much happier (and shorter) train journey back to Eastbourne. I’m not sure the pundits give star ratings to football matches but this was quite tense and certainly entertaining. (****)The next live football for your man is what is expected to be another hard fought affair against Watford on Saturday 2nd February.

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