Brighton end on a high with Roma win but exit Europa League

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Brighton end on a high with Roma win but exit Europa League

Brighton’s Europa League campaign came to an end despite Roberto De Zerbi’s side finishing on a high with a 1-0 victory over Roma at the Amex Stadium.

Danny Welbeck’s stunning 37th-minute strike gave Brighton hope as they looked to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg in Rome last Thursday.

De Zerbi’s side pushed for more goals as Roma goalkeeper Mile Svilar made excellent saves to deny Simon Adingra and Igor Julio in the second half.

But in the end, Roma comfortably progressed into the quarter-finals with a 4-1 aggregate win.

For Brighton, focus now turns to the Premier League where they will look to secure a return to European action for next season.

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How Brighton’s European dreams came to an end…

Julio Enciso

Image: Julio Enciso shows his frustration after a chance goes begging for Brighton

Brighton signalled their intent right from the start with left-back Pervis Estupinan sending a dangerous cross into the gloves of goalkeeper Mile Svilar after only 31 seconds.

Captain Lewis Dunk then headed across the face of goal from Pascal Gross’ corner before later smashing a free-kick into the Roma wall. Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour also sent a volley over the crossbar after the Italians had only half cleared a Gross free-kick.

However, Roma looked to have opened the scoring through Azmoun’s overhead kick only for referee Felix Zwayer to harshly disallow the goal for a high boot. That decision prompted an angry reaction from Roma boss Daniele De Rossi, who was shown a yellow card for his protests.

Brighton did have hope when they took the lead eight minutes before half-time courtesy of Welbeck’s spectacular strike. The experienced former Arsenal and Manchester United striker picked up the ball midway inside the Roma half before playing a one-two with Estupinan and curling an unstoppable right-foot shot into the far corner from 20 yards out.

Van Hecke

Image: Jan Paul van Hecke reacts as Brighton were knocked out of the Europa League

A fiery first half ended with eight yellow cards, including De Zerbi joining counterpart De Rossi in the referee’s notebook.

Another Brighton goal soon after the restart would have set Roma nerves jangling and Julio Enciso tried to find it with a long-range shot that ended up well wide of the target.

Substitute Ansu Fati forced Svilar into a save when his cross-shot from wide on the left bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper.

Leonardo Spinazzola came within inches of putting Roma level on the night when he fired against the angle of post and crossbar following a mazy run.

Adingra should have done better in the 64th minute when heading straight at Svilar from point-blank range from an inviting Gross cross.

Jan Paul Van Hecke put a header wide from Welbeck’s looping cross and, while the home side dominated possession, they could not find any more goals as their first ever European campaign ended.

De Zerbi is now targeting qualifying for Europe again via the Premier League after defeat on aggregate to Roma.

He said: “Today we saw the real Brighton and saw our team play with pride. I am proud because I saw 11 Roberto’s on the pitch.

“I knew my players were capable of responding this way because they are special people and they were hurting like me after losing 4-0 away.

“I believe in my players and I know we can fight to reach another historical target. We have 10 games left in the league and we will fight to qualify for another European competition.”

‘Bringing European football to Brighton was massive but we want more’

Brighton striker Danny Welbeck:

“The lads gave 100 per cent, it’s difficult obviously with the first leg. Very difficult to take that defeat. We paid the price with the first leg. We knew we could get a result in front of the fans tonight but it was too much to do.

“We’ve got a lot of very good players that are out [injured] as well. With the squad, we have to be proud of ourselves and we did the best that we can do.

On getting back into Europe: “We want to keep improving and progressing as a team and as a club. There’s a great culture at the club.”

“We’re going to do our best to get back to playing in these competitions.

“Brighton [being in the Europa League] is historical, first time in Europe, bringing European football to Brighton was massive in itself but there are some steps we need to take to keep bring European football to Brighton.”

Danny Welbeck netted his first goal for Brighton in European competition and his 13th overall, last finding the net in Europe for Arsenal against Sporting CP in October 2018 in the UEFA Europa League.

‘Brighton can be proud of achievements in Europe’

Former Brighton forward Sam Baldock on Sky Sports News:

“Brighton deserved this win over Roma.

“Roma weren’t in top gear. In truth, they didn’t need to be. They defended well and were resolute.

“However, the ball didn’t quite fall for Brighton where they needed it as they looked for more goals.

“So, Brighton do fall short in Europe on this occasion but the whole club can be extremely proud of what they’ve achieved in the Europa League this season.

“I’m sure everyone associated with Brighton has thoroughly enjoyed it and they will be hoping there is more to come.”

Opta stats: Brighton extend unbeaten home run

Brighton are unbeaten in 14 home games in all competitions (W8 D6), last enjoying a longer run without defeat on home soil in a run of 22 games which ended in April 2011.

Roma have made it to the quarter-finals in each of the last four seasons in European competition (also the UEFA Europa League semi-final in 2020-21, UEFA Conference League final in 2021-22 and the UEFA Europa League final in 2022-23), after doing so in just one of their previous seven seasons playing in Europe.

Roma have now gone 15 games in Europe without winning away to an English club (D5 L10) since a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield in February 2001 in the UEFA Cup last 16.

‘Brighton fought hard’

Roma boss Daniele De Rossi:

“Brighton fought and they tried hard. We knew they would start very strongly because they always do and especially tonight, given the scoreline from the first leg.

“We must always be ready to fight, but with a clear mind. We were a bit sloppy at times and suffered a little bit but overall it was a good performance.

“It was more or less the kind of game I was expecting. We should have exploited more situations on the counter.

“We scored a goal that apparently was a legal one that was disallowed so we should have killed off the tie a lot earlier.”

What’s next?

Brighton will have to wait over two weeks for their next game after the postponement of their Premier League home fixture against Manchester City due to City’s FA Cup participation this weekend, which is then followed by an international break.

The Seagulls return to action with a trip to Anfield to face Premier League title challengers Liverpool on March 31; kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports.

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