Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra got a goal and an assist each as a clinical Brighton side stunned Ajax 2-0 in Amsterdam to move into the qualification spots of their Europa League group for the first time.
The Seagulls soared to a famous victory against the four-time European champions as Fati swept home Adingra’s clever ball after 14 minutes following an Ajax mistake, before the on-loan Barcelona attacker returned the favour eight minutes after half-time by setting up Brighton’s second on the break for his fellow forward.
Ajax, who remain bottom of Group B, showed little in response despite Brian Brobbey hitting both posts from a fierce shot inside the box, but the victory came at a big cost for Brighton, who saw James Milner, Lewis Dunk and Pervis Estupinan limp off in three defensive injury blows.
But the good news for Roberto De Zerbi – other than the three points – was seeing his side record just their second clean sheet of the season in all competitions, the other coming in the return fixture against Ajax a fortnight ago.
Ajax: Ramaj (5); Gaaei (6), Rensch (6), Sutalo (6), Hato (5); Vos (4), Kylnsson (6), Taylor (5); Berghuis (6), Brobbey (6), Bergwijn (5)
Subs: Akpom (6), Sosa (6), Forbs (6), Mikautadze (n/a), Tahirovic (n/a)
Brighton: Verbruggen (8); Veltman (7), Van Hecke (7), Dunk (6), Milner (n/a); Gross (7), Dahoud (7); Adingra (8), Fati (9), Mitoma (7), Pedro (7)
Subs: Gilmour (6), Julio (6), Estupinan (n/a), Ferguson (6), Baleba (n/a)
Player of the match: Ansu Fati (Brighton)
How Brighton were dangerous in Amsterdam
Ajax started the game strongly but both of their first-half shots came in the first 15 minutes. Steven Berghuis cut inside from the right but could only find Bart Verburggen’s midriff – the same could be said for Kristian Hlynsson’s long-range drive minutes later.
Meanwhile, the first of two first-half defensive injuries for Brighton occurred when Milner went down shortly after the Berghuis effort and was replaced by Billy Gilmour just minutes in.
- Brighton made three changes from the team who drew 1-1 at Everton. Joao Pedro, Ansu Fati and Mahmoud Dahoud came in for Evan Ferguson, Billy Gilmour and Adam Lallana, while Pervis Estupinian returned to the bench after injury.
- Borna Sosa was replaced at full-back by Devyne Rensch, while Silvano Vos and Kristian Hlynsson came into the midfield for Benjamin Tahirović and Carlos Forbs.
But Brighton then took the lead with their first shot on target – from a crucial Ajax mistake. Silvano Vos’ slack square pass went straight to Adingra, who put Fati in on goal to sweep past the hosts’ goalkeeper.
Ajax went in search of an equaliser but could only create half-hearted penalty appeals – two from Hlynsson for alleged handballs by Kaoru Mitoma, before Brobbey went down under Dunk’s challenge. VAR waved all three claims away.
At the other end, Joao Pedro blazed over while Adingra’s near-post effort was well kept out by Ajax goalkeeper Diant Ramaj.
More concerningly for Brighton, defender and captain Dunk pulled up with a groin injury while trying to play a pass and was replaced at half-time by Igor Julio.
Not that the Seagulls needed their skipper in the second period, though.
Brighton came out flying on the break with Pedro smashing an effort into the side netting before they scored their second.
The duo who combined for the first goal swapped roles as Fati broke through the midfield to feed Adingra to the right of the box, and the winger arrowed a clinical effort into the far corner.
Brighton could have added a third as Fati wasted an effort inside the box after another Ajax error while playing out the back, before Mitoma blazed over after being played through by Pedro.
Ajax eventually woke up again with 15 minutes to go as Brobbey saw his fierce shot tipped onto the post by Verbruggen, roll across the goal line before striking the outside of the other post, while former Arsenal and Middlesbrough forward Chuba Akpom tested the Brighton goalkeeper with a rasping drive.
But, despite substitute Estupinan limping off just minutes into his return from injury, Brighton managed to hold on for the win and the clean sheet.
Brighton’s final fixture before the international break comes on Sunday as they host Sheffield United in the Premier League; kick-off 2pm. Their next Europa League fixture is on Thursday November 30 away to AEK Athens.
Ajax face Almere City FC in the Eredivisie on Sunday; kick-off 1.30pm. Their next Europa League fixture is on Thursday November 30 away to Marseille.