The final whistle blew and for Roberto De Zerbi there was no time for handshakes. The Brighton boss stormed around the pitch like he was David Pleat in 1982, targeting the visiting fans in the lower level of the Bridgford Stand as his injury-ravaged side ecstatically celebrated their first league win since September.
Down to ten men after Lewis Dunk was yellow carded twice in 21 seconds for dissent from Anthony Taylor after Nottingham Forest were awarded a penalty, Brighton held on.
Evan Ferguson’s first-half equalizer and a brace from Joao Pedro ensured Morgan Gibbs-White’s converted penalty was nothing more than a consolation for Steve Cooper’s side, in a crazy encounter that De Zerbi described as ‘a of the best games of the season’. .’
On Thursday, Brighton could qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League, but De Zerbi admitted he was celebrating as if this were the Champions League.
“We celebrated it like a Champions League final,” said the Brighton manager. ‘The character and attitude made the difference. “The spirit, the soul and the way we won the match with ten players, without our captain, Pascal Gross at right back, Jack Hinshelwood at left back and over 25 minutes with ten men,” he added.
Joao Pedro scored a brace for Brighton to set up a thrilling win at Nottingham Forest
Anthony Elanga’s header opened the scoring for Nottingham Forest at the City Ground
18-year-old Irishman Evan Ferguson scored his goal well and made it 2-1 for Brighton
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Six of the ten players still on the pitch at the end of the match were 23 years old or younger and De Zerbi insisted his celebration was not out of disrespect, but rather out of pure emotion for the three points.
“We are suffering a lot, we lost ten players due to injury and in the first half we lost two more players. We also lost two substitutions and then we got a red card. In the last few games we lost two points each time.
‘This is one of the most difficult moments of my time, not only in the Premier League, but of my career. And that’s why it was a big party,” said De Zerbi.
‘I did not see him. I don’t want to get into that,” Cooper said, when asked about De Zerbi’s celebration. ‘If you ask me, I’m a British coach. I was raised to shake hands after a match, show respect and try to win and lose with dignity. I’m not saying he didn’t, but I used to shake hands,” the Forest Boss added.
Brighton wonderkid Ferguson recently signed a new contract, meaning he is now tied to the Sussex club until 2029.
Brighton captain Lewis Dunk was shown a red card after giving away a penalty to Forest
There was a moment just after the half when Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey went down injured and the Brighton fans started chanting ‘Stand up if you brought your boots’.
They had already lost Ansu Fati earlier in the half and now Lamptey – in his first appearance since October – was forced off.
The Zerbi had initially made five changes from the team that drew against Sheffield United before the international break, but within three minutes the home side had opened the scoring.
Morgan Gibbs-White delivered a beautiful delivery from the right flank to the far post where Anthony Elanga was free and the 21-year-old wonderfully headed in from an awkward angle to give Forest the lead.
Brighton’s misery was further compounded when Fati went off with an injury after just 20 minutes and was replaced by Joao Pedro.
But five minutes later they were level thanks to Ferguson. It was also a brilliant finish from the 19-year-old after Gross found him on the edge of the penalty area and the Irishman placed the ball beautifully past Odysseas Vlachodimos.
With the equalizer, Brighton ensured that they scored for the 29th Premier League match in a row. Only three teams have ever run a longer series and each has won the competition in at least one of the seasons these series spanned.
Lamptey’s injury led to the introduction of 18-year-old Jack Hinshelwood, whose name was not even in the matchday programme.
That was the injury crisis on the south coast. And in first half extra time, Brighton took the lead thanks to another excellent finish.
Morgan Gibbs-White coolly converted a penalty to drag Nottingham Forest back into the match
A ball from the right from Gross found Joao Pedro, who guided a brilliant header past the keeper to give the visitors a deserved half-time lead.
Just before the hour mark, Wood was adjudged to have fouled Joao Pedro in the penalty area – a decision which infuriated Cooper – and the Brazilian sent the keeper the wrong way to double Brighton’s lead.
But when Dunk was sent off for dissent after the referee awarded Forest a penalty for Hinshelwood’s foul – which Gibbs-White converted – following a seven-minute VAR check, Brighton had to serve 27 minutes, including an extra ten minutes too little time with a man. .
That worked, thanks to resolute defending and a final stop from goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen to deny Ryan Yates, before De Zerbi left to celebrate. Some three points undoubtedly feel sweeter than others. As for Forest, it was a first home defeat of the season and a first top-flight defeat to Brighton since 1979.
“It would be easy for me to hide behind a terrible penalty decision, but I’m not going to hide behind that – no matter how bad it was – because we have to play better than we did in the first half,” Cooper said. .