Just as well the transfer window closed 24 hours earlier. For those top clubs still looking for goals, here they are, in the boots of a teenager who plays like a man. What price for Evan Ferguson right now?
Thankfully, for Brighton, they don’t have to think about a valuation, at least not until January. The 18-year-old had three chances here and scored each of them. He was sensational. The Seagulls paraded Barcelona loanee Ansu Fati before kick-off, but Ferguson is the real boy wonder.
Newcastle legend Alan Shearer would have been watching, and he should be less worried about Harry Kane returning one day to break his Premier League scoring record as he should Ferguson sticking around and making a bid for his tally of 260. That is 10 and counting now.
The strapping teen left to a standing ovation on 81 minutes, by which time he had knocked Newcastle off their feet. And what of the losers? They, by contrast, were a shambles.
Eddie Howe has banned late nights for his players on the back of Jamaal Lascelles’ involvement in a 4am street brawl. Well, he needs to introduce some early mornings.
Evan Ferguson netted a hat-trick as Brighton comfortably defeated Newcastle at the Amex
The 18-year-old striker capitalised on an error from Nick Pope to give the hosts the lead
Ansu Fati watched on after joining the Seagulls on loan from Barcelona on deadline day
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This was a third straight defeat for a team who did not lose three games until March last season. Yes, they have come against Manchester City, Liverpool and now a very good Brighton. But the opposition do not dictate your energy levels, and Newcastle were hopelessly low on that front as the game wore on.
BRIGHTON VS NEWCASTLE MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Verbruggen 6.5; Veltman 7, Van Hecke 7, Dunk 7, Estupinan 7; Gross 7 (Adingra 89), Gilmour 8 (Dahoud 77); March 7.5 (Lallana 81), Pedro 7 (Lamptey 77), Mitoma 7.5; Ferguson 9 (Milner 81)
Subs: Steele, Webster, Igor Julio, Buonanotte
Goals: Ferguson 27′, 65′, 70′
Bookings: Lamptey, Milner, Dahoud
Coach: Roberto De Zerbi 8
NEWCASTLE (4-3-3): Pope 4; Trippier 5, Schar 4.5, Burn 4.5, Targett 5 (Lascelles 74); Tonali 5 (Longstaff 58, 6), Guimaraes 5, Joelinton 4.5 (Wilson 58, 6.5); Almiron 5 (Anderson 58, 6), Isak 5.5 (Barnes 74), Gordon 5.5
Subs: Dubravka, Murphy, Livramento, Hall
Goals: Wilson 90+2′
Bookings: Schar, Targett, Gordon
Coach: Eddie Howe 5
If star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes wants a new contract – and he does – he has to make his pitch on the pitch, and right now he is fortunate to even be there.
The Brazilian, so influential in Newcastle’s rise from the bottom of the Premier League to the Champions League, has started this season out of sorts and, seemingly, out of shape. He is moving himself nor the ball particularly convincingly.
There is a growing feeling that he and £52million summer signing Sandro Tonali cannot operate in the same midfield and Newcastle’s decision not to add a No.6 during the window was made to look short-sighted here.
Their engine-room was low on gas from the off and they were schooled by another relative rookie, Brighton’s Billy Gilmour. But Howe’s problems extend beyond the middle of the park.
At this level, what a goalkeeper does with his feet is of equal importance to any handy work. Stop shots and start attacks is the duty. Roberto De Zerbi was furious with Bart Verbruggen when he failed to fire a ball into midfield to break Newcastle’s press early on.
At least the keeper had kept possession, instead rolling a pass to his full-back. If only Newcastle’s Nick Pope had done that in the moments before Brighton’s opening goal on 27 minutes.
Pope’s kicking is not his strong suit. And rather than attempt to find team-mate Kieran Trippier with a Brighton forward closing in, he opted to boot downfield. He was, though, left kicking himself when his scuffed clearance landed at the feet of Pervis Estupinan.
From that Pope made a subsequent save but Tonali swung a lazy leg at the loose ball and was just as sluggish in closing down Gilmour, allowing him to strike on target.
Pope made it look like the midfielder had sent a bar of soap goalwards and his fumble was slammed in by Ferguson. For Newcastle, it was a grubby concession.
Come half-time, the visitors could point to several quality chances as reason for optimism. But really those openings masked a performance absent of their usual intensity and composure.
Had Alexander Isak shown more of the latter inside the first few minutes then Newcastle might have been 2-0 up. He was sent clear on goal by Guimaraes inside 40 seconds but wanted too long to decide on his finish. We will never know what he had planned, for Jan Paul van Hecke recovered to steal.
Maybe Isak was still thinking about that missed chance when Tonali drew back for him on three minutes. The Swede was unmarked 10 yards out but his connection was panicked and bobbled wide. Brighton had started cold on a hot day and De Zerbi ripped off his jumper as he threatened to boil over.
Ferguson was again on hand after the break to double his side’s lead with a curled effort
Ferguson netted again minutes later to complete his first-ever Premier League hat-trick
Result sees Newcastle having picked up just three points from their first four games this season
Substitute Callum Wilson netted a consolation in stoppage time but it was too little too late for the Magpies
From there, the home side found their feet and Newcastle lost their heads. They were fortunate to enter half-time trailing by just one and Joao Pedro should have added a home second when scooping over from six yards.
Ferguson’s second, on 65 minutes, was both an awesome finish and shocking defending. Tonali had been hooked by now but little had changed and Newcastle’s midfield was bypassed as Gilmour slipped a pass to the striker, in space 25 yards out. Newcastle’s defence ran away and they had every reason to be fearful as Ferguson found the bottom corner.
His hat-trick goal six minutes later owed something to a deflection off Fabian Schar – the defender’s careless leg captured his side’s listless second-half display – but that luck was deserved in securing the first match ball of his career. Callum Wilson nicked a consolation in stoppage-time.
There will, you feel, be many more trebles in Ferguson’s career. Brighton should enjoy him while they can.