Roma 4-0 Brighton: Seagulls lose Europa League last-16 first-leg tie

Roberto de Zerbi looks dejected during Brighton's defeat at Roma
Brighton have lost three consecutive games across all competitions for the first time under Roberto de Zerbi

Brighton’s first foray into European knockout competition looks set to end after a first-leg thumping at a resurgent Roma side which leaves them looking unlikely to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

Two Seagulls defensive errors in an entertaining first half did the damage before Roma took full control after the break.

“We played our game. We gave our best. Maybe our best now is this performance,” Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi said.

The hosts took an early lead when Paulo Dybala slotted in the first after Brighton were undone by a long, straight pass from Leandro Paredes.

Albion gradually grew into the game, hitting the post through Simon Adingra’s deflected cross while Danny Welbeck forced an instinctive save from Roma keeper Mile Svilar.

But they fell further behind when Lewis Dunk’s poor touch was pounced on and punished by Romelu Lukaku just before half-time.

Brighton continued to play boldly and bravely after the break as they searched for a way back into the game.

However, they were hit by a sucker punch when Gianluca Mancini slid in a third, and quickly conceded again through Bryan Cristante’s header.

De Zerbi’s side continued to try and salvage something to take back to the Amex Stadium, but were unable to narrow the deficit before the second leg next Thursday (14 March).

“The Europa League final eight is a big level for us so we have to improve to progress,” added the Italian manager, who has led Brighton into Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

“We are not used to playing this competition and today we paid everything.”

Stark reminder of how far Brighton have come

Brighton fans of a certain age still have to pinch themselves when they think about how far the club has come in the past 30 years.

From struggling in the depths of the Football League and facing liquidation in 1997, the Seagulls’ stunning rise has led to competing abroad.

De Zerbi’s side topped their Europa League group ahead of Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens – three high-profile clubs with established pedigree – and a trip to Rome was the latest destination on a memorable European tour.

But there is a huge gulf between Brighton and Roma in terms of experience at the highest level – as a club and in personnel on the pitch.

The latter showed in a bad night for the Seagulls.

“I think Roma is much better in terms of experience to play this type of game and we suffer a lot. Too much I think,” added De Zerbi.

In front of a sell-out crowd of more than 64,000 passionate fans, Roma used their energy to make a positive start and were rewarded when Paredes teed up Dybala – two players who both helped Argentina win the 2022 World Cup – for the opener.

Injury-hit Brighton eventually settled down to pose a threat, but were unable to take their chances and were ruthlessly punished by Chelsea loanee Lukaku.

Romelu Lukaku smashes in Roma's second goal
Romelu Lukaku has scored 27 goals in the Europa League. only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (31) and Radamel Falcao (30) have netted more in the competition

A long ball forward was misjudged by Dunk, who took a heavy touch when trying to control it with his thigh, and was muscled out of the way before the Belgium striker emphatically drilled a low strike past Steele.

It was a harsh lesson about the quality of the Giallorossi, who have been resurgent under Daniele de Rossi.

The Roma legend replaced Jose Mourinho in January, galvanising the club and allowing his reinvigorated team to play with more freedom.

Brighton could perhaps be accused of playing with a touch of naivety, continuing to pile forward in search of a foothold in the tie but leaving gaping holes at the back.

The manner in which they easily conceded twice in three second-half minutes was a concern and, barring an unbelievable second-leg turnaround, effectively ended their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.

“We have to progress and if we want to compete in this level, from the owner to the coach to the players we have to progress to reach one level higher,” added De Zerbi.

“I spoke with the owner a lot of times before February on the transfer market and I told him the problems we are finding.”

Player of the match

PellegriniLorenzo Pellegrini

Player of the match

LukakuRomelu Lukaku

Roma

  1. Squad number90Player nameLukaku

  2. Squad number7Player namePellegrini

  3. Squad number99Player nameSvilar

  4. Squad number14Player nameLlorente

  5. Squad number4Player nameCristante

  6. Squad number23Player nameMancini

  7. Squad number5Player nameNdicka

  8. Squad number37Player nameSpinazzola

  9. Squad number92Player nameEl Shaarawy

  10. Squad number16Player nameParedes

  11. Squad number19Player nameÇelik

  12. Squad number17Player nameAzmoun

  13. Squad number21Player nameDybala

  14. Squad number35Player nameBaldanzi

  15. Squad number52Player nameBove

  16. Squad number59Player nameZalewski

Brighton & Hove Albion

  1. Squad number11Player nameGilmour

  2. Squad number30Player nameEstupiñán

  3. Squad number24Player nameAdingra

  4. Squad number18Player nameWelbeck

  5. Squad number34Player nameVeltman

  6. Squad number20Player nameBaleba

  7. Squad number40Player nameBuonanotte

  8. Squad number13Player nameGroß

  9. Squad number29Player namevan Hecke

  10. Squad number5Player nameDunk

  11. Squad number31Player nameAnsu Fati

  12. Squad number2Player nameLamptey

  13. Squad number23Player nameSteele

  14. Squad number10Player nameEnciso

  15. Squad number3Player nameIgor Julio

  16. Squad number28Player nameFerguson

Line-ups

Roma

Formation 4-3-3

  • 99Svilar
  • 19Çelik
  • 23Mancini
  • 5Ndicka
  • 37SpinazzolaBooked at 61minsSubstituted forLlorenteat 82′minutes
  • 4Cristante
  • 16ParedesSubstituted forBoveat 72′minutes
  • 7Pellegrini
  • 21DybalaSubstituted forBaldanziat 72′minutes
  • 90LukakuSubstituted forAzmounat 88′minutes
  • 92El ShaarawySubstituted forZalewskiat 88′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Rui Patrício
  • 2Karsdorp
  • 6Smalling
  • 14Llorente
  • 17Azmoun
  • 20Renato Sanches
  • 22Aouar
  • 35Baldanzi
  • 52Bove
  • 59Zalewski
  • 63Boer
  • 69Angelino

Brighton

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 23Steele
  • 2LampteyBooked at 67mins
  • 29van HeckeBooked at 38mins
  • 5Dunk
  • 3dos Santos de PauloSubstituted forEstupiñánat 75′minutes
  • 11GilmourSubstituted forBalebaat 81′minutes
  • 13Groß
  • 40BuonanotteSubstituted forVeltmanat 75′minutes
  • 10EncisoSubstituted forAnsu Fatiat 45′minutes
  • 24Adingra
  • 18WelbeckSubstituted forFergusonat 81′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Verbruggen
  • 4Webster
  • 14Lallana
  • 15Moder
  • 20Baleba
  • 28Ferguson
  • 30Estupiñán
  • 31Ansu Fati
  • 34Veltman
  • 38McGill
  • 44Peupion
  • 47Baker-Boaitey

Referee:
François Letexier

Attendance:
64,877

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