Brighton youngster's stand-out performance against Stoke City gives Roberto De Zerbi selection headache for West Ham

Jan Paul van Hecke’s man-of-the-match display against Stoke City has given Roberto De Zerbi a selection headache for Brighton’s upcoming games.
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The Dutch defender started his first game in four weeks for Albion in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory in the FA Cup fifth round tie at the Bet365 Stadium.

A single Evan Ferguson goal was enough to book Brighton’s place in the quarter final of the competition and keep the supporters’ dreams alive of a first piece of major silverware in the club’s history.

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The Dutch defender started his first game in four weeks for the club in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at the Bet365 stadiumThe Dutch defender started his first game in four weeks for the club in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at the Bet365 stadium
The Dutch defender started his first game in four weeks for the club in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at the Bet365 stadium
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Seagulls’ boss De Zerbi made five changes to his starting line-up from the 1-0 loss to Fulham ten days prior; offering rare first-team opportunities to van Hecke, Jeremy Sarmiento and Jason Steele, alongside a full debut for January signing Facundo Buonanotte.

Van Hecke was the stand-out performer of the evening. The 22-year-old looked comfortable on the ball against the home side’s high press, dominating in the air and in the tackle, to help his side keep a clean sheet alongside skipper Lewis Dunk – who was making his 400th appearance for the club.

After the game, De Zerbi he was “very, very happy” with the young defenders performance.

The Italian said: “I’m really, really happy for JP (Jan Paul van Hecke) because he is improving and he is in progress. For me when I have to decide the first eleven it’s not easy. A player who is playing well from not much time on the pitch, that is satisfaction for me.”

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De Zerbi also praised the performances of the other squad players, saying: “The same for Sarmiento. I think Buonanotte played a good game. It was his first game in another country and another language. I am sure he will become a very good player for us. Jason Steele was fantastic for our style of play.”

All of those that started in Tuesday night’s win will now hope to be considered for De Zerbi’s first XI in Albion’s next Premier League game.

Brighton welcome West Ham to the Amex Stadium on Saturday, March 4, 3pm kick off, in attempt to make it seven wins from their last ten games in all competitions.