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Eddie Howe endured his third consecutive league defeat as Newcastle United manager, marking just the third time in his nearly two-year tenure, as the Magpies fell 3-1 to Brighton at the Amex Stadium in a match where the home side outperformed them tactically, collectively, and individually.
The game could have taken a different turn early on when Alexander Isak missed two uncharacteristic opportunities when through on goal. Unfortunately, Newcastle’s traveling supporters had little to cheer about afterward.
Newcastle’s troubles began when Nick Pope mishandled a straightforward situation towards the right touchline, failing to clear effectively and putting pressure on the defense. Kieran Trippier and Sandro Tonali also failed to cover themselves in glory, leading to Pope spilling Billy Gilmour’s half-volley from 30 yards directly into the path of Evan Ferguson, who calmly finished the chance.
It was a dreadful first goal to concede, exposing the goalkeeper’s glaring weakness once again. However, the players in front of Pope could have mitigated the error, with Tonali, in particular, making a lazy second attempt at clearance that cost the team.
Joelinton, who had an off day in midfield, had Newcastle’s best chance to equalize before halftime, but he dragged a left-footed shot wide from 18 yards after a good setup by Anthony Gordon. João Pedro then missed a golden opportunity for Brighton, and Newcastle was fortunate to go into halftime only one goal behind.
Brighton maintained control of the game in the second half and extended their lead to 2-0 when Ferguson found space in front of the back four and curled a beautiful shot into the bottom-right corner from 30 yards. Dan Burn failed to track the young striker up the pitch, but Bruno Guimarães was also absent when the shot came from his zone.
Newcastle had a chance to reduce the deficit shortly after with their best move of the game, involving substitutes Sean Longstaff, Callum Wilson, and Elliot Anderson. Anderson’s low cross from the left touchline found Gordon, but he missed the target from 12 yards, sending his effort wide of the post.
Ferguson completed his hat-trick soon after, benefiting from a deflection off Fabian Schär’s weak block attempt, effectively sealing the game. Wilson did score a fine consolation goal in the 92nd minute from Longstaff’s long pass, but it was the only positive note on a difficult afternoon for Howe and his players.
While the start of the season was expected to be challenging, too many players have fallen short of their best form since the opening day. Newcastle deserved just three points, having won the only game where they were the better side. Improvement is imperative from this point, and the international break may provide a needed opportunity to reset, even though several first-team regulars will be absent from training for the next few weeks due to international duty.