Despite a pair of Joao Pedro penalties – which were inexplicably only awarded following a VAR review on both occasions – Brighton were given a harsh welcome to life in the Europa League by AEK Athens, who left the South Coast of England with three points in the bag.
A stunning Djibril Sidibe header preceded Mijat Gacinovic’s finish and a fortunate Ezequiel Ponce third – the striker’s first effort was saved by Jason Steele before the rebound deflected into the back of the net off his toe – putting Roberto De Zerbi’s side at an early disadvantage in a tantalising Group B.
A third Premier League win on the bounce would be the perfect tonic for De Zerbi’s side, who have marched to back-to-back 3-1 triumphs over Newcastle United and Manchester United in their last two top-flight encounters, storming to victory at Old Trafford courtesy of strikes from Danny Welbeck, Pascal Gross and Pedro.
Not even Manchester City or a free-scoring Tottenham Hotspur can match Brighton’s league-high tally of 15 goals so far this term, and De Zerbi’s men occupy fifth place in the rankings owing to their impressive start, but defensive concerns are apparent.
Indeed, the Seagulls are still without a clean sheet in all competitions this season and have now gone 10 games without a shut-out since their 3-0 win over Arsenal back in May, but not since February have they been kept at bay down the other end at the Amex.
As 0-0 draws go, Bournemouth’s stalemate with Chelsea was certainly on the more entertaining end of the spectrum, but both defences ultimately won out to leave Andoni Iraola still searching for his first Premier League win as Cherries head coach.
Bournemouth certainly gave a good account of themselves against a side who were crowned European champions only two years ago, and a previous 2-2 draw versus Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium – where the Bees are seldom outclassed – can also be viewed in a positive light
However, as one of five teams still without a maximum points haul in the 2023-24 Premier League – along with newly-promoted trio Burnley, Sheffield United, Luton Town and Everton – Bournemouth are once again fighting at the wrong end of the table in 15th spot.
Nevertheless, with a 3-2 EFL Cup success over Swansea City also on the record this season, Iraola’s men head across the South Coast with a three-game unbeaten run to protect, and while clean sheets continue to evade Brighton, Bournemouth ended a 10-game run without a shut-out last weekend.
The Seagulls navigated 180 minutes without shipping a goal in last season’s contests with Bournemouth, though, prevailing 1-0 at the Amex in February before going one better with a 2-0 win at the Vitality Stadium two months down the line