Southampton 1, Brighton 1: Albion pegged back after Murray penalty as relegation clash ends even
Brighton & Hove Albion had to settle for a point in a south coast relegation tussle with Southampton at St Mary's tonight.
The home side went into the clash second-bottom in the Premier League with Albion three places and just one point ahead of them in 16th - both desperate for a victory.
Both would have seen this midweek game as a must win going into it, especially with teams in the bottom half of the table picking up points, but it ended with a result that did neither side that many favours.
Looking for their second win in 14 attempts, Albion's bright start was rewarded with a Glenn Murray penalty giving them the lead on 14 minutes after Solly March was tripped in the box, but that's where the Seagulls' threat stopped.
Saints, who were winless in 11 league games, piled on the pressure and few could argue with them deservedly leveling the scores midway through the second half through Jack Stephens delicate flick from a free kick.
Even the returning Leonardo Ulloa coming off the bench could not spark anything for Albion, who in the end, with Saints' pressure would have settled for a point.Albion made ten changes from Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough with only Dale Stephens keeping his place in the starting 11.
Albion's healthy and noisy away support should have been celebrating after just 29 seconds as Pascal Gross broke forwards on the right and rolled a low cross all the way across the box to an unmarked Jose Izquierdo, who blazed over from 12 yards despite being under no pressure at all.
The away side seemed to settle into the game well and a March shot was blocked away and Gross' follow-up deflected behind for a corner, which was easily cleared.
At the other, Oriol Romeu stole a march and met a corner unmarked on the penalty spot, but headed over in Saints' first chance.
But action soon reverted to the Saints' penalty area and a low pass into the box from Izqueirdo found March and he showed quick feet to shift the ball. As he did so his was his foot was caught by Wesley Hoedt and referee Mike Dean, who was right on top of the incident, pointed straight to the spot.
Murray stepped up and calmly sent Alex McCarthy the wrong way to bring up Albion's 200th top-flight goal.
On 22 minutes, the home side carved out an attack by switching the ball right to James Ward-Prowse, but his dangerous delivery was turned behind by Lewis Dunk with Shane Long waiting to tap home in the six-yard box.
From a quickly-taken Saints free kick, Ryan Bertrand took the ball forward on the left and fired a shot into the side netting of Mathew Ryan's near post after bursting forward.
Ryan's blushes were then spared on 32 minutes when he took too long over a Shane Duffy back-pass and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg chased him down and his block came back off the crossbar.
It was all Saints pressure in the build-up to half-time and a number of Albion blocks in the area were needed to keep them at bay, while their best chance saw Bertrand shoots over from the edge of the penalty area from Ward-Prowse's low corner.
A clearly unimpressed Mauricio Pellegrino made two changes at the break bringing on Guido Carrillo for his Premier League debut and Sofiane Boufal for Dusan Tadic and Oriol Romeu.
Saints continued where they left off in the first half and their first real chance came after nine minutes as a delicate ball into Stephens, saw the defender rise high from six yards, but he guided his free header wide of the post.
The leveler that Saints had been threatening eventually came on 65 minutes. A low Ward-Prowse free kick came across the box from the left and Stephens got the slightest of flicks to send it into the bottom corner.
With Saints maintaining the ascendancy, further chances saw Carrillo fire over and Hojbjerg test the gloves of Ryan from range.
With Chris Hughton looking to turn the tide back is his side's favour he turned to Ulloa with 14 minutes left to play with Murray making way for the Argentine, but despite some energetic running, he and Albion failed to test McCarthy.
Southampton: McCarthy, Soares, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Romeu (Boufal 46), Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Carrillo 46), Long (Gabbiadini 78). Unused subs: Forster, Pied, Yoshida, Lemina.
Brighton: Ryan, Bong, Dunk, Schelotto, Duffy, Propper, Stephens, March, Gross (Kayal 83), Izquierdo, Murray (Ulloa 76). Unused subs: Krul, Baldock, Knockaert, Goldson, Rosenior.
Attendance: 30, 034 (3,407 away).