He sprinted down the touchline like he was Jose Mourinho in 2004, he switched his tactics around like he was Pep Guardiola, and the away fans serenaded him as if he was a club legend who had guided them to European football.
And who knows, maybe he might. Roberto De Zerbi is building quite an affinity with Brighton fans after little over a month in the job and, after making Chelsea look like relegation fodder and playing Wolves off the park here, the sky’s the limit for the Seagulls.
They raced into an early lead, were pegged back against the run of play and then went behind via a dubious penalty – but fought back with an 83rd-minute winner which was richly deserved.
Pascal Gross (left) broke the Wanderers’ hearts with a late winner to give Brighton a 3-2 win
Brighton will now rise to sixth in the Premier League table, above Chelsea on goal Difference
Japanese international Kaoru Mitoma was the standout performer, after scoring his first goal in English football, then earning a foul which saw Nelson Semedo sent off, and finally dazzling through Wolves’ defence to set up the winner.
If nothing else, Mitoma’s story is one that sums up this well-run football club. He was snapped up from a club in Nawasaki and underlines Brighton’s slick recruitment drive and ability to spot diamonds in the rough and fine-tune them into top-class players.
Brighton started with the same frantic intensity that saw them thrash Chelsea 4-1 last week and had two good chances in the first 10 minutes, with Nathan Collins making a last-ditch block to deny Solly March from six yards out.
But the Seagulls took flight after 11 minutes, when Adam Lallana – playing his best football in a decade in a Brighton shirt – passed the ball into the top corner of Jose Sa’s goal from just inside the penalty area.
Adam Lallana (pictured) scored his first goal for Brighton, opening the scoring in the game
Goncalo Guedes (pictured) levelled two mins later scoring after long run up the field
When that goal went in, one wondered if Albion could run away with the match, such was their domination. But less than two minutes after going behind, Goncalo Guedes weaved through Brighton’s defence and finished well after a long run.
De Zerbi spent the whole match on his feet, patrolling his technical area and beyond with his arms flailing up, down, left and right, proverbially kicking and heading every ball as his side remained in the ascendancy.
But even the passionate Italian was left rather speechless as VAR somewhat ruined a first half which lasted 53 minutes due to a penalty, a couple of lengthy offside checks and a red card.
Ruben Nevez (pictured) scored from the spot after Lewis Dunk handled the ball in the box
But Kaoru Mitoma (right) levelled for the seagulls at 2-2 with a fantastic header on half time
Daniel Podence floated a cross which glanced Lewis Dunk’s arm from point-blank range and, barring a couple of half-hearted appeals from fans, few in Molineux protested for a penalty and play continued. But those at Stockley Park halted proceedings and referee Graham Scott trundled over to the video monitor.
After a good minute of studying replays, he took a couple of steps back, then retraced his steps for a couple more views of the incident, before looking almost embarrassed as he pointed to the penalty spot. Ruben Neves confidently fired into the roof of the net to put Wolves ahead.
The perceived injustice seemed to stall Brighton’s fast, zapping football and their fluid positional transitions also slowed down. But then, out of nowhere, Wolves gave Lallana too much time on the ball to float a cross into the back post for Kaoru Mitoma, who headed home.
The Japanese international has been included in their World Cup squad this week and celebrated that proud moment with his first goal in English football after signing from Kawasaki Frontale in 2021 and spending last season on loan at Saint-Gilloise in Belgium.
A dejected Nelson Semedo (pictured) was sent his marching orders just on half time
Semedo (front) had pulled down Mitoma who went through on goal and was shown a red card
Mitoma, 25, is an exciting winger with a deadly first touch and spell-binding ball control. One of those touches simultaneously killed the ball dead from a long ball and knocked it past Nelson Semedo, who pulled him to the ground and was shown a red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.
So would Brighton’s dominance grow now against 10 men in the second half? If anything, it waned slightly as Wolves became more content with a draw. But the Seagulls still looked the most likely to score.
Gross (pictured) scored in the 83rd minute to give Brighton a hard fought win at Molineux
It was a huge win for Roberto de Zerbi (pictured), whose side go above Chelsea to sixth in table
Pressure is starting to mount on Steve Davis (pictured) whose side will stay in bottom three
March came close after winning possession high up the field with a brave tackle, then nearly caught out Jose Sa at his near post after faking to cross. Sa then needed a strong pair of wrists to deny Alexis Mac Allister’s free-kick.
Wolves had a couple of decent chances of their own, though, and credit must go for making a number of attacking substitutions including sending on Adama Traore, who forced Robert Sanchez into a strong save on 79 minutes.
And just as one wondered if Wolves were to earn a vital point, Brighton scored via a tidy Pascal Gross finish after another dazzling dribble from Mitoma.
WOLVES (4-3-3): Sa 6.5; Semedo 3, Collins 6, Kilman 7, Bueno 6; B Traore 5 (Ronan 90), Neves 7, Moutinho 6; Guedes 7 (Ait-Nouri 74, 6), Hwang 6 (A Traore 68, 6), Podence 6 (46, 6).
Subs not used: Sarkic, Mosquera, Hodge, Fraser, Griffiths.
Booked: Jonny, Collins. Sent off: Semedo.
Manager: Steve Davis 7.
BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Sanchez 6.5; Gross 6.5, Webster 6, Dunk 8, Estupinan 7 (Gilmour 82); Caicedo 6, Mac Allister 7; March 7, Lallana 8 (Welbeck 65, 6), Mitoma 9 (Veltman 90); Trossard 7 (Undav 82).
Subs not used: Steele, Lamptey, Colwill, Sarmiento, Enciso.
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 8.
Referee: Graham Scott 6.
Attendance: Not given.
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