Sun 3 Sept 2023, 09:58 · NUFC News

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Newcastle United: Premier League gameweek 4 match report, highlights, player ratings, and Howe/Trippier reactions

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Newcastle United: Premier League gameweek 4 match report, highlights, player ratings, and Howe/Trippier reactions
Serena Taylor/Newcastle United Football Club
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Eddie Howe suffered a third successive league defeat as Newcastle United manager for just the third time in his nearly two-year tenure, as the Magpies deservedly fell 3-1 to Brighton at the Amex Stadium.

It could all have been so different before Roberto De Zerbi's men got their trio of goals, though, as Alexander Isak was uncharacteristically wasteful when in on goal twice in the opening stages. Unfortunately, there wasn't much for the travelling support to shout about after that, as the home side were simply better tactically, collectively, and individually.

Things began to unravel for Newcastle when Nick Pope made a hash of a simple situation out towards the right touchline, failing to make significant contact on his attempted clearance to pile pressure on his defence. Kieran Trippier and Sandro Tonali didn't cover themselves in glory in the aftermath, which ended with Pope spilling Billy Gilmour's half-volley from 30 yards straight into the path of Evan Ferguson, who finished easily.

It was a horrible, horrible first goal to concede and highlighted our goalkeeper's only real glaring weakness once again. However, the men in front of Pope could have easily spared his blushes, Tonali, in particular, making a second lazy attempt at a clearance that he was punished for.

Joelinton, equally off his game in the centre of the park, had our best chance to equalise before half-time, dragging a left-footed shot wide from 18 yards after good work from Anthony Gordon. João Pedro then missed a sitter for the hosts, with Howe's side lucky to go in at the break just a goal behind.

Brighton had good control of the game following the interval and went 2-0 up when Ferguson dropped into an ocean of space in front of the back four before dispatching a beautiful curling shot into the bottom-right corner from all of 30 yards. Dan Burn was guilty of failing to track the young striker up the pitch, but Bruno Guimarães was nowhere to be seen and the shot came from his zone.

Newcastle should have halved the deficit moments later, however, following our best move of the game. Substitutes Sean Longstaff, Callum Wilson, and Elliot Anderson were all heavily involved in the build-up, which ended with Anderson squaring low from the left touchline for Gordon. The winger properly fluffed his lines, though, slicing an effort from 12 yards tamely wide of the post.

Ferguson then completed his hat-trick very soon after, with the aid of a huge deflection from Fabian Schär's lazy attempt at a block, effectively putting an end to the game as a contest. Wilson did manage to score a very fine consolation from Longstaff's looping long pass in the 92nd minute, but that was the only positive to take on a horrible afternoon for Howe and his players.

This was always going to be an incredibly difficult start to the season, but too many players have been nowhere near their best since the opening day. We deserve to have just three points, as we won the only game where we were the better side, but things need to improve significantly from here, and quickly.

The international break has probably come at the right time for us to have a little reset, even if Howe will be without a good number of his first-team regulars on the training pitch for the next couple of weeks.

Are there any highlights of the game?

We have to watch the highlights to write these reports, but we'd understand if you just gloss over this section altogether again this week:

What were the player ratings?

Isak was the only starter to put in a performance anywhere near his best level, but even he struggled in the critical moments when it came time to shoot or pick a pass.

Almirón and Gordon were full of running without really impacting the game enough, while the midfield trio were largely poor. Joelinton just didn't look fit, while Tonali struggled to get up to the pace of the contest and Bruno was sloppy in possession time and time again.

The pressure on the back four was immense as a consequence of the majority of players ahead of them having off-days, with Pedro and Ferguson dragging Schär and Burn into uncomfortable positions throughout the 90 minutes.

Trippier and Targett were solid enough against very tough direct opponents, while Pope had another afternoon to forget. He just hasn't been the same since his red card against Liverpool last season, although he was genuinely colossal for us up to that point.

Of the substitutes, Wilson was a menace and scored a brilliant consolation, while Longstaff added legs to our sluggish engine room and got a decent assist. Lascelles and Barnes didn't have much time to contribute, while Anderson showed some sparks in an attacking sense but was found wanting defensively.

Newcastle United (4-3-3): Pope 4; Trippier 5, Schär 4, Burn 4, Targett 5 (Lascelles 5); Tonali 4 (Longstaff 6), Guimarães 4, Joelinton 4 (Anderson 5); Almirón 5 (Wilson 7), Isak 6 (Barnes 5), Gordon 5

What was Eddie Howe's reaction?

The head coach gave his usual post-match analysis to Dan King of NUFC TV and tried to put a brave face on things:

"A tough day for us all, I think. I don't think the performance was bad, I thought it was a strange game. We've ended up being 3-0 down in the game and you're wondering 'How?!' because they haven't really opened us up and created great chances.

The goals we conceded were strange, really. The first was a catalogue of errors from us, the second one was a long-distance strike, and the third one was a deflection. So it's the football gods working against us there, I think.

We weren't at our best today, I think that's clear. I'm honest enough to say that. We have things to work on and improve, but we were up against a very good opponent today. I thought they played very well and they've got a way of playing that's very difficult to control, but I thought we did, and we had chances the other way. That's the frustrating thing, because if those early chances go in for us then it could have been a very different game.

The players kept going to the very end, I think that's a huge positive. We scored late in the game, it was a great goal from Callum (Wilson), and I was very pleased with the physical and mental efforts late in the match because that's when you're truly tested.

A big thank you (to the travelling supporters). The scenes at the end were incredible. I feel sorry for the supporters today because we haven't given them what they want. I thought they were there for us, they were willing us on, and you could feel the energy that they were trying to give the team. I'm just so disappointed that we weren't able to match that and give them back what they deserved.

I think it's about making sure the players individually get back to their best levels (the international break). Confidence is a fragile thing and sometimes it can be knocked in the subtlest of ways, and then you're not seeing the team at it's maximum level. I think the Liverpool game probably harmed us quite a bit emotionally, but you wouldn't have known that early in the game today. I thought we started really well but the first goal was a real kick in the teeth for us."

What did Kieran Trippier have to say?

Our on-field captain also spoke to the official site, with his most notable responses being:

"In the first 10 minutes I think we could have been two or three nil up, that's the reality. If you don't take your chances at places like Brighton at this level... but I don't think it's any time to point fingers. We're a team and we stick together through these moments. We're in the Champions League and we're in all the cups, so it's going to be a challenging season for us players and supporters, and as a club, so these are the times that we have to show character and stick together.

We need to realise we've played (Aston) Villa, (Manchester) City, Liverpool, and Brighton. It's a tough start, but there are no excuses. We've had our chances in every single one of those games. Obviously, we won against Villa but you look at the other games and we've had our chances. But they're the moments in the game where you need to take your chances to stamp your authority on the game and today we should have.

The international break has come at the right time. We can go away and reflect on a challenging season, but most importantly we can't hide away from the fact it's going to be an exciting season as well. So that's up to us to choose which one we want.

It's for myself, Jamaal (Lascelles) and the leadership group to help the young lads in the team. This is football, you're going to experience moments like this in the season. That's our responsibility, to pick all the lads up and remind them of how much of an exciting season it can be. There's no need to panic, it's been a tough start, but we've given a good account of ourselves."

What's next for NUFC?

The international break, which is going to feel like a couple of months rather than a couple of weeks to Howe and the lads.

It's Brentford at St. James' thereafter, on Sunday the 17th of September at 4.30 p.m. BST, and it's arguably a must-win.