Roberto De Zerbi feels Brighton must improve defensively to qualify for Europe
Roberto De Zerbi admits Brighton will struggle to qualify for Europe if they repeat the defensive lapses which cost them two points in a thrilling 3-3 Premier League draw with Brentford.
Dominant Albion enjoyed 73 per cent possession and registered 33 attempts at goal on a breathless afternoon at the Amex Stadium but required a 90th-minute penalty from Alexis Mac Allister to avoid a damaging defeat.
Errors at the back meant the Seagulls were forced to come from behind three times against one of their rivals for continental qualification.
Head coach De Zerbi rued the mistakes but could not fault the overall endeavour of his resilient side.
“It’s a great point for us because sometimes football can be cruel,” said the Italian.
“We showed character, we showed passion, we played a fantastic game. It was only one team on the pitch, I think.
“We concede three goals in an incredible way. We want to improve in this situation because if we concede three goals like this, we can’t achieve our target.
“It’s bad because we deserved to achieve our target.
“We are playing in a fantastic way. I’m really pleased for the players and for this I am sorry for the result because we lost two points in a bad way.”
A pulsating south-coast contest moved both sides above Liverpool in their respective quests for European football, with Brighton sixth and Brentford a place below on goal difference.
Albion began in the ascendancy but twice switched off in a frantic opening half hour as Pontus Jansson headed home early on before England striker Ivan Toney claimed his 17th league goal of the season within a minute of Kaoru Mitoma’s lobbed equaliser.
Danny Welbeck nodded in the hosts’ second leveller, only for Ethan Pinnock to escape a static Seagulls backline to poke the Bees back in front early in the second half.
Brighton, who managed 21 efforts at goal in a 2-0 defeat at Brentford in October, looked set for further frustration before VAR spotted Aaron Hickey’s late handball and Argentina World Cup winner Mac Allister coolly converted from 12 yards.
De Zerbi feels it will be difficult for the Seagulls to produce a better attacking display.
“I can say nothing to my players for the performance,” he said. “The performance was fantastic, one of the best performances in my time.
“We have to improve for sure but it’s difficult because if you win today you can say nothing and I have to be honest and say it’s difficult to play better than today.
“Brentford are a good team but today Brighton deserve to win.”
Despite the late drama, Brentford boss Thomas Frank had no complaints about the result.
The Dane was disappointed by the manner of Brighton’s first two goals but refused to blame right-back Hickey for handling Deniz Undav’s late effort.
“When you’re leading three times, you always want more, especially when you’re leading until the 90th minute, it’s always tougher to take,” he said.
“I think it’s a game where Brighton did well, I also think we did well.
“It’s a good point today. Effort? Fantastic, spotless. Body on the line? Spotless. Determination? Spotless. But a few structural things that we are normally doing better, especially for the first two goals.”
Speaking of Hickey and the penalty incident, he said: “For the handball, I said ‘don’t worry’. I think that’s such a random situation.
“That’s an unfortunate part of the randomness in football. It’s the first one (Mitoma’s goal) that he needs to learn from.”