By Sky Sports
A quickfire Solly March double at the start of the second half helped fire Brighton to a resounding 4-1 win at Wolves as Roberto De Zerbi’s side began life without Moises Caicedo in style.
The visitors led at half-time thanks to Kaoru Mitoma’s stunning individual strike on quarter-of-an-hour mark, before doubling their advantage right at the start of the second half via Pervis Estupinan’s close-range finish.
However, within the space of just five minutes, the game was over as a contest as March scored twice in quick succession with simple tap-ins after eye-catching Brighton breaks, before Hee-Chan Hwang’s headed consolation just past the hour-mark.
And to make matters worse for the hosts, key forward Matheus Nunes was sent off in stoppage time after picking up a second yellow card after a needless push on a Brighton defender on the byline as frustrations boiled over.
As a result, Brighton – who according to De Zerbi will enter the transfer market before the window closes on September 1 – are top of the Premier League having won their opening two games by an aggregate score of 8-2, while the Gary O’Neil reign at Wolves has begun with two straight defeats as they sit bottom of the table.
How Brighton went top of the Premier League This was the first Brighton game since they sold key holding midfielder Caicedo to Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee, not that it showed as the visitors ran riot in the Midlands sunshine.
The exciting Mitoma opened the scoring after 15 minutes with an early goal-of-the-season contender already as the quick-footed Japan forward jinked his way past two Wolves players in close proximity, before gliding into the area and cooly side-footing past Jose Sa.
Wolves were unfortunate not to go in level at the break as they continued their wayward finishing from their unlucky 1-0 loss at Man Utd on Monday Night Football, with the home side made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as Brighton scored three times in the opening 10 minutes of the second period.
So Wolves made just the one change from the side that were unfortunate to go down 1-0 to Man Utd at Old Trafford on MNF, with Fabio Silva coming in for Pablo Sarabia, who was benched.
Meanwhile, the visitors made three alterations from the lineup that overcame newly promoted Luton at the Amex on the opening Saturday of the new season, with boss Roberto De Zerbi opting to bring in the likes of Adam Webster, Billy Gilmour and Julio Enciso. And that meant Jan Paul van Hecke, Mahmoud Dahoud and Joao Pedro all dropped to the bench.
Estupinan doubled the visitors’ lead right from the restart as Sa pushed aside Danny Welbeck’s shot from the edge of the box, but straight to Mitoma, who set up Estupinan for a simple finish.
The game then turned into the March show, with the midfielder twice finishing off swift Brighton counterattacks by converting enticing Julio Enciso centres to give the scoreline a slightly flattering nature.
Wolves did finally manage to get off the mark for the season through Hwang’s looping far-post header, the least O’Neil’s team deserved, only for Nunes to make a bad day even worse when seeing red deep into injury time when tempers flared on the byline.
FPL Stats: Wolves 1-4 Brighton
Goals March (2), Estupinan, Mitoma, Hwang
Assists Enciso (2), Estupinan, Mitoma
Bonus points March (3), Mitoma (2), Estupinan (1)
Having offloaded key midfield duo Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister this summer, many pondered how Brighton would cope this season.
Well, despite it being a small sample size, Roberto De Zerbi’s exciting Seagulls side have begun this season much like they finished the previous campaign, in a free-flowing mood and on the front foot as evidenced by their 4-1 win at Molineux.
Yes, the final scoreline may have slightly flattered the visitors, who were fortunate to go in 1-0 up at the break thanks to Kaoru Mitoma’s sensational individual effort, but there can be no denying the brilliance of this Brighton team under De Zerbi’s stewardship, especially on the counter-attack where they at times destroyed their hosts.
After the game, the Italian said the south coast club will be looking to go into the transfer market to fill the void left by Caicedo’s departure to Chelsea, but with Brighton top of the Premier League on the back of an aggregate score of 8-2, one wonders if they need to.
Man of the Match – Kaoru Mitoma A goal and an assist for Brighton’s eye-catching Japan international, who once again made things difficult for Wolves and if the 26-year-old continues to produce more displays like this, then the Seagulls may soon be fighting off advances for his services too.
Mitoma gave his team the lead with a breathtaking individual strike that will live long in the memory and explains why the player has a degree in dribbling as he glided past a trio of Wolves players, before calmly rolling the ball home to end a run of 13 top-flight appearances without a goal.
In fact, his strike at Molineux was his second in the league against Wolves, who are the only side Mitoma has scored more than once against. He also set up Estupinan for Brighton’s second right at the start of the second period.
What the managers said… Wolves boss Gary O’Neil:
“I didn’t think it was worlds apart. The scoreline will obviously make most people believe it was, but it wasn’t miles apart.
“Look at the numbers, shots, chances created. But yeah, you can’t miss that many chances.
“It was an aggressive gameplan. We tried to go after Brighton when we could, pressed high and managed to regain the ball a few times.
“There’s risk attached to that, so when we win the ball back and have our chances, we need to score because when it goes to the other end, Brighton were extremely clinical with theirs.”
“Mitoma is a top player and when you have a top player you can expect goals like today.
“We have not only Mitoma. We have Joao Pedro, (Julio) Enciso, (Danny) Welbeck, (Adam) Lallana, (Evan) Ferguson, (Simon) Adingra, (Solly) March, (Facundo) Buonanotte. I think we are in a very good condition in attack.
“I spoke with him (March) last season and the beginning of this season. I want him to score more goals. For him and for us.
“If the winger can score a lot of goals, if you check the teams at the top of the table anywhere, the big teams, they have wingers able to score 10 or 15 goals.”
Meanwhile, De Zerbi also said he hopes to sign a new midfielder, plus one other player before the transfer window closes on September 1.
“I think we have to go into the transfer market,” he added. “Without Caicedo, we have to play in different ways.”
Brighton have won their opening two matches in a top-flight season for only the second time, previously doing so in the 2021-22 campaign. Their eight goals in their opening two games are the joint most they’ve ever netted at this stage of a league season, also netting eight in 1999-00 in the fourth tier. Since Roberto De Zerbi’s first Premier League game in charge of Brighton last October, only five teams have won more points in the division than the Seagulls (55), who have won 16 of their 34 games under the Italian (D7 L11). Wolves conceded four goals in their first home league match of a season for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign, when they lost 4-0 to Charlton Athletic in the Premier League. Julio Enciso’s four Premier League assists have all come against Wolves in two games (two in April, two today). He’s only the seventh teenager to assist 2+ goals in multiple Premier League games and is the first non-European player to do so. Wolves have now shipped 16 goals in their last four Premier League matches against Brighton, losing all four games by an aggregate score of 16-3.