Brighton moved within touching distance of Premier League safety for another season as Graham Potter’s hosts opened a 10-point gap to the relegation places with victory over Leeds United.
With four games to play, the Seagulls – looking to secure a fifth successive term in the top flight – climbed three places to 14th and have a significant margin to 18th-placed Fulham, who face Chelsea later (17:30 BST).
The hosts were rewarded for a positive start at Amex Stadium when Pascal Gross expertly found the bottom corner with a 14th-minute penalty, awarded following Ezgjan Alioski’s clumsy foul on Danny Welbeck.
Potter’s side squandered several chances to extend their advantage, but Welbeck eventually sealed an important victory 11 minutes from time with a composed finish after a sharp turn.
Leeds, missing midfield rock Kalvin Phillips, initially responded to falling behind, but Jack Harrison’s whipped shot was caught comfortably by Robert Sanchez and Dan Burn bravely blocked a thunderous Tyler Roberts strike from the visitors’ best first-half chances.
Brighton’s forward trio of Welbeck, Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay were all guilty of wasting opportunities – but Stuart Dallas’ dipping first-time attempt with 15 minutes remaining was as close as Marcelo Bielsa’s below-par side came to an equaliser.
Brighton all but safe
Having slumped to defeat at bottom side Sheffield United last weekend, Brighton responded with an energetic and determined display that should finally end any nagging threat of relegation.
This victory, against an in-form Leeds aiming to consolidate a top-half finish, ended a tough four-match winless run for Potter’s side, which had also seen them fail to score in their past three despite attempting 51 shots in total.
When it arrived, Gross’ spot-kick ended a six-hour wait for a goal, and though Illan Meslier went the right way the German’s low strike could not have been better placed.
The profligacy that has plagued Brighton’s campaign threatened to cost them once more as Trossard blazed over from Welbeck’s cut-back after he robbed Diego Llorente of possession, and Welbeck dragged a low shot wide of the far post shortly before half-time.
Undeterred, Trossard, Welbeck and Maupay looked fluid and threatening throughout and Welbeck ensured his personal good work was rewarded as a brilliant pivot beat the Leeds defence and presented the Englishman with ample time to pick his spot.
Potter’s faith in the quality of his squad has not wavered despite a lingering threat of relegation – one far from helped by a dismal home record showing just three wins – and now that safety looks all but confirmed they can surely afford to play with freedom as they aim to secure the five points required to better last season’s tally.
Leeds’ unbeaten run comes to abrupt end
Marcelo Bielsa’s side arrived on the South Coast looking to extend a six game unbeaten run – their best in the top-flight since November 2001 – as they attempt to consolidate a top-half position to crown an impressive Premier League return.
That streak, which included victory over champions-elect Manchester City and draws against Manchester United and Liverpool, had given Leeds an outside chance of sneaking into the European places – but those hopes took a likely fatal blow on Saturday.
Leeds were far from their breathless best, yet this was a familiar tale in a fixture that continues to prove particularly unfruitful.
The visitors, who lost the reverse fixture 1-0 in January, have failed to win away to Brighton since victory in League One in 2009 and have lost their past five games at the Amex.
They failed to ignite in attack, landing only two shots on target, and Patrick Bamford managed just 15 touches before being replaced after an hour.
And while they lacked the attacking flair of Raphinha, it was the disruptive influence of Phillips at the base of midfield that was perhaps the greatest miss. Leeds have won just two of nine league games without him this season.
‘One of our best performances’ – what the managers said
Brighton boss Graham Potter to BBC Sport: “A big victory and a big performance, one with a lot of quality and a lot of character. I was disappointed with the last one and you have to respond, and the players did. Overall a fully deserved three points.
“It was one of our best performances. You have to match Leeds for their effort and honesty and I felt we did that really well. There are still a lot of points to play for and we want to get more points as well.”
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa: “We didn’t play well. The victory for the opponent was fair. We created very little danger and it was difficult for us to recover the ball.
“The game was hard with the height of their centre-backs. We couldn’t avoid them initiating the play nor could we overcome them trying to get in behind.”
Leeds hate trips to Brighton – the stats
- Brighton have won eight of their past nine league games against Leeds.
- Leeds have lost five consecutive away league games against an opponent without scoring for the first time in their history. They have lost their last five visits to Brighton by an aggregate score of 11-0.
- Brighton kept their seventh home clean sheet of the season – only Manchester City and Chelsea, with nine, have more at home in the Premier League this term.
- Only Leicester (10) have won more penalties than Brighton (nine) in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, no side has given away more penalties (nine) or conceded more penalty goals (eight) than Leeds.
- Danny Welbeck’s five goals in his 21 Premier League games for Brighton this season is his best return in a top-flight campaign since 2017-18.
- Pascal Gross has registered 36 goal involvements in the Premier League (15 goals, 21 assists), which is at least eight more than any Brighton team-mate.
Next weekend, Leeds host Tottenham on Saturday at 12:30 and Brighton are away to Wolves on Sunday at 12:00.
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 13GroßBooked at 76mins
- 8BissoumaSubstituted forMac Allisterat 90+2′minutes
- 11TrossardSubstituted forJahanbakhshat 81′minutes
- 18WelbeckSubstituted forModerat 90′minutes
- 10Mac Allister
- 2AylingBooked at 88mins
- 14LlorenteSubstituted forHernándezat 79′minutes
- 10AlioskiSubstituted forPoveda-Ocampoat 45′minutes
- 9BamfordSubstituted forRodrigoat 59′minutes
Match ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 2, Leeds United 0.
Second Half ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 2, Leeds United 0.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Robin Koch.
Attempt blocked. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Pascal Groß.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alexis Mac Allister replaces Yves Bissouma.
Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Jakub Moder replaces Danny Welbeck.
Attempt missed. Adam Webster (Brighton and Hove Albion) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Pascal Groß with a cross following a set piece situation.
Luke Ayling (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Luke Ayling (Leeds United).
Adam Webster (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Hand ball by Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Attempt missed. Mateusz Klich (Leeds United) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ian Poveda-Ocampo.
Jack Harrison (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alireza Jahanbakhsh replaces Leandro Trossard.
Goal! Brighton and Hove Albion 2, Leeds United 0. Danny Welbeck (Brighton and Hove Albion) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner.
Substitution, Leeds United. Pablo Hernández replaces Diego Llorente.
Attempt missed. Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Leandro Trossard.