Evan Ferguson came off the bench to earn Brighton a dramatic 2-2 draw at Leicester City as the hosts missed the chance of claiming a first league win since the World Cup.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side arrived in the east Midlands in great form, looking for a third league victory in a row after last weekend’s resounding 3-0 home win over Liverpool, and duly took a deserved 27th-minute lead thanks to Kaoru Mitoma’s stunning strike.
However, 11 minutes later and totally out of the blue, the Foxes leveled though Marc Albrighton’s close-range finish, with the hosts then going in front as Harvey Barnes swept home just past the hour mark.
But Leicester could not hold on, with Ferguson rising high to nod in Pervis Estupinan’s left-wing cross with just two minutes left to play to hand the visitors a deserved point.
As a result, Brendan Rodgers’ team side sit 14th in the table, a point above the drop zone, after snapping a four-game losing streak – their last win was back on November 12 at West Ham – while Brighton go sixth.
Leicester: Ward (7), Thomas (7), Faes (6), Amartey (6), Chestnuts (6), Mendy (6), Praet (6), Dewsbury-Hall (7), Tielemans (7), Barnes (8 ), Vardy (7)
Subs: Maddison (6), Albrighton (7), Daka (6)
Brighton: Sanchez (6), Estupinan (8), Dunk (6), Van Hecke (7), Gross (7), Caicedo (7), Mac Allister (8), Lallana (6), March (8), Welbeck (6 ), Mytoma (9)
Subs: Lamptey (6), Ferguson (8), Veltman (6)
Player of the match: Kaoru Mitoma
How Brighton denied Foxes first win since November
The Brighton boss warned his players ahead of kick-off not to underestimate their struggling opponents as the two teams began the day in contrasting form, with the visitors looking for a third league win on the trot, while Leicester were hoping just for a victory of any sorts.
It was De Zerbi’s team, though, who scored first as the in-form Mitoma picked up possession on the left, before cutting in, advancing towards the edge of the area and then curling a beauty into the top righthand corner, with Danny Ward absolutely helpless.
If that lead was deserved, Leicester’s equalizer soon after was something of a surprise as Barnes was sent scampering free down the left and when his shot was blocked, Youri Tielemans then also saw his well-struck effort strike a Brighton defender, only for Albrighton to convert the rebound from close range.
James Maddison returned to the Leicester squad for the visit of Brighton. The forward had been out since November with knee problems but was on the bench while Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall made a comeback from a glute problem.
Meanwhile, Jan Paul Van Hecke made his full Brighton debut as Roberto De Zerbi made two changes. Danny Welbeck also returned for the visitors in place of Evan Ferguson.
The Video Assistant Referee, Lee Mason, checked for possible offsides against Barnes and Jamie Vardy, but allowed the goal, and it was the home side who went ahead after 63 minutes as Barnes tapped home after Luke Thomas’s near-post flick on from a corner .
However, just as the home faithful began to dream of a first win in two months, Pervis Estupinan’s cross from the left was brilliantly headed in by the unmarked Ferguson, 18, to hand the visitors a deserved draw after a close VAR call – De Zerbi was so infuriated by Lee Mason’s refusal to award his side a penalty, he later questioned whether it was even in operation – and several other near misses.
Foxes’ winless run continues – Opt stats
- Leicester are winless in their last five Premier League games (D1 L4), conceding 10 goals – this after winning five of their previous eight in October and November and only shipping three goals in total.
- Brighton have scored 26 goals in their 13 Premier League games under Roberto De Zerbi (averaging 2 goals per game), only Man City (27) have netted more in this time.
- Leicester’s Harvey Barnes has scored more Premier League goals (7) in 18 appearances this season than he did in 32 games in 2021-22 (6) – only in 2020-21 (9) has he netted more in a single campaign in the competition .
- Brighton’s Evan Ferguson has three goals and two assists in his five Premier League appearances – the best minutes per goal involvement ratio (every 40 minutes) among players with at least 90 minutes on the pitch in the competition this season.
FPL Stats: Leicester 2-2 Brighton
|Goals||Albrighton, Barnes, Mitoma and Ferguson|
|Assists||Tielemans, Thomas, Estupinan (2)|
|Bonus points||Mitoma (3), Estupinan (2), Ferguson (1)|
What the managers said…
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers:
“We should have won the game but it (coming from behind) is important. Now moving into the second half of the season every point counts.
“I’m disappointed with the first goal because we gave the ball away cheaply. It’s a quality we lack, but he scores a great goal.
“At this level you have to have a pride with the ball. Not enough of our players care enough when they have it. You have to deal with the ball at the highest level.
“Then it’s about a response, we spoke about it, that if we went behind it was a chance to show our spirit.
“The players fought right to the end. They were probably out on their feet a little bit. Overall the spirit was there and we had some of our players back.”
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi:
“Today was a bad day for the referee, a very bad day. I don’t like to speak about referees so much or to cry about the referee after the game. I hate (it), I don’t like the people who cry about the referee but today it is clearly a penalty.
“I’m not able to understand what the referee was watching. If you want you can help me because I don’t understand. There is VAR but I don’t know if it was working or not.
“It’s an important point. I know football and I know sometimes you can lose this game and I think we deserved to win.
“We played better than Leicester in the second half. There was only one team on the pitch, but we could lose the game because we made some mistakes.
“I’m happy for the performance of the players, I’m proud of the way we played after Leicester’s second goal.”
Analysis: It was important for Leicester to stop the rot
Kris Boyd on Soccer Saturday:
“Brighton created enough opportunities, had a stonewall penalty, scored two fantastic goals and what a header from the young man Ferguson, who came on, an unbelievable header from one side of the goal to the other.
“Mitoma is always a threat from outside the box with his pace and his finish was outstanding, but for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester, they will be happy they got the point because it has been a bad run of form, with James Maddison back on the field as well.
“And with that difficult run coming up, it was important for Leicester to stop the rot.”
Man of the Match – Kaoru Mitoma
The twinkle-toed Japanese, who has either scored (4) or assisted (1) in five of his seven Premier League starts for Brighton, was at it again in the east Midlands – and fresh on the heels from terrorizing Liverpool on the south coast last weekend, the 25-year-old is fast becoming one of the most exciting attackers in the top flight.
The forward opened the scoring with a goal-of-the-season contender and was his side’s most dangerous attacker at the King Power, creating one sizeable second-half opening for Solly March, only for the winger to miss horribly with the goal gaping.
However, many more displays like this one and Mitoma will be another Seagull in demand.
Foxes can take heart from battling draw
Analysis by Sky Sports’ Richard Morgan:
“This was a hugely important match for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester, who came into it on the back of a worrying four-game losing streak since the return to Premier League action after the World Cup and were left with broken hearts as Brighton snatched a deserved late draw at the King Power.
The Foxes face Midlands rivals Aston Villa, then Tottenham, Manchester United and runaway league leaders Arsenal in their next four league games, meaning they really needed a result against an in-form and high-flying Brighton team.
And after showing great spirit to turn the contest on its head and lead 2-1, having trailed to Kaoru Mitoma’s solo stunner, Rodgers and Co will feel this was a defeat, rather than a draw, after conceding late on.
It would have been worse, though, had the visitors been more clinical in front of goal, or indeed the Video Assistant Referee Lee Mason decided Danny Welbeck had been tripped in the box after the break, and Rodgers will hope his players can use this battling display to stir memories of their form earlier season, when they won five out of eight in October and November.
Leicester turn their attention to the FA Cup as they travel to the League Two side Walsall in the fourth round next Saturday, kick-off at 12.30pm.
The Foxes then face a crucial February, which begins with a Midlands derby at Aston Villa on February 4, before facing three sides in the ‘Big Six’. Leicester hosts Tottenham on the following weekend, then travel to Manchester United for a Super Sunday clash on February 19. They end the month hosting league leaders arsenal on February 25.
Brighton also have a FA Cup fourth-round clash next weekend, as they havet Liverpool next Sunday, kick-off 1.30pm.
The Seagulls return to Premier League action on February 4 when they host Bournemouth. Roberto de Zerbi’s side then face a derby away at Crystal Palacea home clash with Fulham and a trip to Newcastle later in the month.