|Ipswich Town 3 v 1 Brighton and Hove Albion|
Saturday, 1st October 2011 Kick-off 15:00
Town 3-1 Brighton
Saturday, 1st Oct 2011 17:05
Michael Chopra hit two stunning goals, his first at home for the Blues, and Ibrahima Sonko opened his Town account as Paul Jewell’s men came from behind to beat Brighton 3-1 at Portman Road. The Blues should have been in front at the break but it was the Seagulls who scored the game’s first goal via Vicente Rodriguez, before Sonko’s header sandwiched Chopra’s brilliant right-foot strikes.
Blues boss Jewell stuck with the same XI for the fourth game running, while Brighton made four changes from the side which lost to Crystal Palace in midweek.
Albion assistant manager and former Blue Mauricio Taricco was amongst those dropping out and understood to have decided to retire from playing, the Argentinian taking his place on the bench alongside Gus Poyet.
Jimmy Bullard wasn’t far from opening the scoring in the fifth minute when he flicked a looping shot just over the bar after Brighton keeper Casper Ankergren had somewhat uncertainly punched away an Edwards cross.
On seven, after Leadbitter had just failed to find Jason Scotland with a chipped cross from the right of the area, Michael Chopra came close to a superb goal. The former Cardiff man volleyed Edwards’s right-wing cross goalwards while on the run, only for Ankergren to block similarly impressively.
But it was Brighton who were having much of the ball and keeping possession for long spells, however, without creating anything significant in front of goal.
On 15 Bullard hit a 30-yard strike for the Blues but failed to trouble Ankergren, then two minutes as Leadbitter went nearer with a 25-yarder which flew narrowly over after another move down the Town right.
Clear-cut chances continued to be rare at either end but in the 28th minute a moment of Chopra magic carved out an opportunity for strike partner Scotland. Sonko cleared long down the right and the Blues’ number 10 plucked the ball from the air with his right foot before laying the ball into the Trinidadian’s path, but his shot struck a defender.
Soon after, a long spell of Town possession ended with Bowyer hitting a shot through to Ankergren that he gathered at the second attempt. On 34 Leadbitter went wide from 25 yards with the Blues on top and with the visitors still to create a serious chance.
Town should have gone in front a minute later when Edwards played the ball into Chopra’s feet, the frontman laying the ball off to the on-rushing Bowyer who shot wide when he should have tested Ankergren at the very least. At the other end, Vicente sent the ball well over from the edge of the box.
Leadbitter picked up the game’s first booking in the 40th minute for a foul on Craig Mackail-Smith, although Edwards had appeared to have been fouled moments earlier by Marcos Painter. Seconds later, the Blues skipper found Chopra on the left, the striker cutting in and hitting a shot just over.
Town will probably feel they should have been at least a goal to the good at the break, having created a number of decent opportunities. Ankergren’s stop from Chopra prevented an excellent goal from the striker who was bright all half but looked in need of a goal, while Bowyer probably should have scored his opportunity.
Brighton had kept the ball well for spells but had created little despite Mackail-Smith’s constant movement up front.
An Aaron Cresswell freekick from the right led to the first penalty area action of the second half in the opening minute, the ball striking a defender before Sonko was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul.
Lee Bowyer was booked for a foul on the breaking Vicente, prior to Bullard hitting a low shot but which again failed to seriously test Ankergren.
As is so often the case, Brighton went ahead with their first shot on target. Gary Dicker won the ball from Chopra midway inside the Brighton half in the 53rd minute with Town feeling a freekick ought to have been awarded. The ball reached Vicente, who brought the ball forward, cut inside on the edge of the area and hit a shot into the top corner of the net.
Two minutes later, the Seagulls might have made it two when Ashley Barnes headed a cross from the right straight at Stockdale, who was again being watched by England goalkeeper-coach Ray Clemence.
Albion’s lead didn’t last long. Just before the hour mark Chopra picked up a loose ball on the left, brought it inside before unleashing a blistering shot which beat Ankergren and hit the inside of the post before nestling in the back of the net, his first home goal for Town.
Nathan Ellington replaced Scotland up front for the Blues, then Barnes headed just over for Brighton from a corner with the game opening up and with the visitors having most of the ball. Soon after, Ashley Barnes was yellow-carded for catching Danny Collins with an elbow.
A Carlos Edwards run down the right almost led to a second Town goal in the 69th minute, the Trinidadian’s cross deflecting into the path of Keith Andrews. The Irishman’s shot was blocked, then Bullard saw a strike from the edge of the area deflect for a corner.
From the flagkick the Blues went in front. Bullard sent the ball over to the far post, from where Sonko rose to what seemed an impossible altitude to power a header into the back of the net.
The Town fans were still celebrating the Senegalese international’s first goal for the Blues when Chopra netted his second of the match. Slightly closer in than for his first, he similarly cut in from the left and unleashed an unstoppable strike to Ankergren’s left, the ex-Leeds man standing no chance.
Town by now were oozing with confidence every time they went forward but on 78 Brighton went close, Cresswell getting his head in front of Mackail-Amith to clear a dangerous cross from the left.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced Lee Bowyer, who was applauded off warmly, for the final 11 minutes. On 83 Seagulls’ sub Will Hoskins shot straight at Stockdale.
New loan signing Reece Wabara replaced Chopra in the 89th minute, the Blues’ striker receiving a huge ovation from the home support as he made his way to the dug-out.
There was general surprise when the fourth official’s board announced six minutes of injury time, an Andrews shot well wide after a long spell of Blues possession the only significant further action.
Town’s excellent run continued with another deserved win against a Brighton side which played a lot of football but rarely looked like threatening until Vicente’s goal out of nothing put them in front.
Chopra’s two strikes will take some beating for the Town Goal of the Season award, the first perhaps just eclipsing the second, while rarely will a player jump as high as Sonko to head home a corner.
There were superb displays throughout the side, Chopra will unsurprisingly receive most praise for his goal and overall performance, while Sonko and Collins were again excellent at centre-half.
Carlos Edwards put in another tireless 90 minutes up and down the right flank, while Nathan Ellington made probably his most impressive contribution for the Blues from the bench.
A week ago, Town fans were talking about a tricky run of three games – Middlesbrough and West Ham away and Brighton at home – and Jewell’s men, now 10th and a point from the play-offs, have shown that they’re more than up to competing with the best in the division by taking seven points from those matches. After a more than shaky start, the Blues’ season is now truly up and running.
Town: Stockdale, Cresswell, Edwards, Collins, Sonko, Bullard, Andrews, Bowyer (Emmanuel-Thomas 79), Leadbitter, Scotland (Ellington 60), Chopra (Wabara 89). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Delaney.
Brighton: Ankergren, Calderon, Painter, Greer, Vincelot, Bridcutt, Navarro (Harley 74), Dicker (Hoskins 81), Vicente (Noone 74), Barnes, Mackail-Smith. Unused: Brezovan, Cook. Referee Darren Deadman (Peterborough). Att: 19,793 (Brighton: 1,568).
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