Hemed's strike takes Albion back to the top

Action from Albion's match with Cardiff this evening. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Action from Albion's match with Cardiff this evening. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Brighton & Hove Albion returned to the top of the Championship with a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Cardiff City this evening.

It was a frustrating evening for long periods for Albion but Tomer Hemed's superb strike 17 minutes from time gave them all three points and a first home win against the Bluebirds in seven attempts.

Anthony Knockaert sends a free kick just wide. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Anthony Knockaert sends a free kick just wide. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Brighton made two changes from the 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday evening. Striker Glenn Murray was ruled out through a one-game ban after Albion's appeal against his red card in the Wednesday match was rejected by a FA Independent Regulatory Commission yesterday. Solly March came into the side for Albion's top-scorer, while Beram Kayal replaced Oliver Norwood in central midfield.

Bruno (groin) and Sam Baldock (calf) again missed out, while Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori was not signed in time to play.

Albion made a bright start and enjoyed a lot of possession early on. Hemed fizzed a shot just wide of the near post on eight minutes, before the in-form visitors, who had lost just one of their previous eight league games, began to come more into the match.

Joe Ralls fired into the side netting from 12 yards on 11 minutes and Seagulls keeper David Stockdale then saved a low Kenneth Zohore strike on 22 minutes after Albion carelessly gave the ball away.

David Stockdale pushes away Junior Hoilett's shot. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

David Stockdale pushes away Junior Hoilett's shot. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Albion winger Anthony Knockaert sent a low free kick just wide on 29 minutes, before Stockdale was called into action twice in succession to tip over Sean Morrison's header and then push away Junior Hoilett's half-volley from the edge of the penalty area.

March stung the palms of Bluebirds keeper Alan McGregor on 38 minutes with Albion's best effort of the half as the sides went in all square at the break.

Albion should have opened the scoring five minutes into the second half when March skipped clear down the left and crossed for Hemed but he could only side-foot wide from eight yards.

The hosts continued to pressurise the Bluebirds and Shane Duffy glanced a header wide from a Knockaert free kick on the hour.

Other half chances came and went, before Brighton's perseverance was rewarded on 73 minutes. Substitute Oliver Norwood passed the ball into Hemed, who superbly turned Sol Bamba on the edge of the penalty area and then rifled home a fierce strike from 15 yards.

Jamie Murphy was soon denied by McGregor as Albion hunted a second.

Cardiff sent on former Seagulls winger Craig Noone and Saturday's match-winner Rhys Healey as they looked for a response and the former had a shot blocked with his first touch.

Knockaert curled a shot just over with a minute to go and Albion then saw out the four minutes of injury-time to hold on for all three points.

BRIGHTON: Stockdale; Goldson, Duffy, Dunk, Pocognoli; Knockaert (Skalak 89), Kayal (Norwood 71), Stephens, Murphy; March (Sidwell 81), Hemed. Subs: Maenpaa, Huenemeier, Towell, Hunt.

CARDIFF: McGregor; Peltier, Morrison, Richards, Ralls (Whittingham 89), Bamba, Halford (Healey 78), Gunnarsson, Harris, Zohore, Hoilett (Noone 78). Subs: Murphy, Connolly, Lambert, Kennedy.

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