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Mat Ryan keeps Wolves at bay as Brighton snaffle precious point

The Guardian logo The Guardian 20/04/2019 Stuart James at Molineux
20th April 2019, Molineux, Wolverhampton, England; EPL Premier League football, Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Brighton and Hove Albion; Chris Hughton Manager Manager of Brighton before the game starts (Photo by Steve Feeney/Action Plus via Getty Images) © Getty Images 20th April 2019, Molineux, Wolverhampton, England; EPL Premier League football, Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Brighton and Hove Albion; Chris Hughton Manager Manager of Brighton before the game starts (Photo by Steve Feeney/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The wait for a goal goes on – 35 days and counting to be exact – but all that matters for now is that Brighton have stopped the rot. Chris Hughton had called on his players to show resilience and togetherness between now and the end of the season, and plenty of both were in evidence on an afternoon that saw Brighton pick up the most precious of points to end a run of five defeats and edge a step further away from of the relegation zone.

Defensive from the first minute to the last, Brighton got exactly what they came for. It made for a desperately poor spectacle – “How do you watch this every week?” chanted the home supporters – but the Brighton fans, bathed in sunshine, were not complaining come the end. Huge celebrations greeted the final whistle.

Brighton, who are now three points clear of Cardiff with four games to play, rode their luck at times, with Diogo Jota twice hitting the woodwork and Mat Ryan making a couple of vital stops. At the other end, Rui Patrício, the Wolves goalkeeper, did not had a save to make, adding to the sense of frustration among the Wolves players and supporters. The reality is that it was one of those afternoons when the home team desperately needed to score early.

It had been clear from the start that Brighton had come to grind out a point. A 4-3-3 formation on paper was more of a 4-5-1 on the pitch, with Solly March and José Izquierdo dropping deep on either flank and leaving Glenn Murray an isolated figure up front. Wolves dominated possession and it says everything about the visitors’ approach that their goalkeeper touched the ball more than any other Brighton player in the opening half an hour.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - April 20, 2019  Brighton fans       Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  Please contact your account representative for further details. © Reuters Soccer Football - Premier League - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - April 20, 2019 Brighton fans Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Brighton had already been forced to make a change by that stage: Davy Pröpper pulled up with a hamstring injury that led to the early introduction of Beram Kayal. Tactically, however, everything remained the same. Ten players behind the ball and only the occasional foray into the Wolves half. When Dale Stephens shot from more than 40 yards with almost the last kick of the first half it was met with ironic cheers by the Brighton supporters. It was their first attempt on goal of any description.

Only a Wolves goal was going to change Brighton’s mindset but the home team did nothing to prise their opponents open in the first 45 minutes. Jota, set up by Morgan Gibbs-White, drilled a low shot narrowly past the far post and the Portuguese saw another attempt clip the top of the crossbar after Rúben Neves’s long-range effort had taken a deflection. Generally, though, it was all rather flat, which played into the hands of Brighton.

The pattern of the game remained the same in the second half. Wolves were camped in the Brighton half, in search of the goal that refused to come. Jota hit the woodwork for a second time when his glancing header from Raúl Jiménez’s clipped cross came back off the inside of the post. Leander Dendoncker, who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes, was first to the rebound but Ryan smothered the substitute’s attempt to turn home from a couple of yards out. The Brighton keeper also kept out a late header from the Belgian.

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