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Brighton 1-0 Marseille: Joao Pedro scores astonishing late winner to send Roberto De Zerbi's side into the last 16 of the Europa League… and helps them AVOID February play-off against Champions League dropout

Joao Pedro broke the French resistance with another flash of his natural predatory instinct and cut the Brighton fans free from a night of frustration.

It was a sixth goal in six Europa League games for the Brazilian striker. He has really taken to this competition in style and so have Brighton.

After a slow start, with one point from the first two games, Roberto De Zerbi‘s team won four in a row without conceding to clinch top spot in Group B, bypassing the awkward play-off round against a Champions League drop-out in February to ease into the last 16 in March.

They left it late against Marseille and they enjoyed elements of good fortune. The visitors, for whom a point was enough to top the group, sat deep and took few risks but threatened on the break.

Twice they rattled the woodwork and they tested the patience of the home crowd as they rolled out a series of time-wasting antics.

It was a late show at the Amex as Joao Pedro scored the goal Brighton needed to top Group B

It was a late show at the Amex as Joao Pedro scored the goal Brighton needed to top Group B

Roberto De Zerbi's side are in the last 16 and beat out European regulars Marseille, Ajax, and AEK Athens - despite it being their firs European campaign

Roberto De Zerbi’s side are in the last 16 and beat out European regulars Marseille, Ajax, and AEK Athens – despite it being their firs European campaign

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MATCH FACTS

Brighton 4231: Steele 6.5; Hinshelwood 7 (Milner 74, 6) Van Hecke 7, Dunk 6.5, Julio 6; Gilmour 7.5 (Baleba 90+1) , Gross 7.5; Adingra 6.5 (Ferguson 65, 6), Buonanotte 6 (Lallana 75, 6) , Mitoma 7; Pedro (Veltman 90+1).

Subs: Verbruggen, McGill, Milner, Dahoud, Hinchy, Chouchane, Kavanagh, Duffus.

Goals: Pedro 88

Bookings: Lallana, Steele, Mitoma

Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 6.5

Marseille 352: Lopez 7; Meite 7, Mbemba 7, Balerdi 6; Clauss 7, Veretout 6 (Kondogbia 78), Ounahi 6.5, Harit 6 (Sarr 78), Lodi 6 (Murillo 55, 6); Aubameyang 6, Vitinha 5 (Ndiaye 52, 6.5).

Subs: Ngapandouentnbu, Blanco, Gigot, Kondogbia, Sarr, Mughe, Nadir, Soglo.

Goals

Bookings: Mbemba, Ounahi, Sarr

Manager: Gennaro Gattuso 6

Ref: Jose Maria Sanchez (Spain) 6

Att: 30,214

Brighton had created very little, but refused to stop probing, searching for a way through and when Pedro collected a pass from Pascal Gross in the closing minutes, he showed the clarity of thought to work the ball onto his right foot in a crowded space and finish high into the net.

‘These are the best moments of my life,’ Pedro told TNT Sports. ‘I am very happy to be the top scorer in the Europa League, to be top of the group. To do these things, you need to keep going through hard work.’

Brighton settled into a good early rhythm and dominated, with Billy Gilmour dictating tempo from midfield and De Zerbi’s wingers were dangerous in the spaces behind the Marseille wing backs.

Simon Adringra unleashed the first effort of the night for the home team, cutting inside from the right onto his left foot. Kaoru Mitoma mirrored the action for the second. Neither proved too difficult for Pau Lopez to keep out.

Pedro grew into the game. He forced a save when Gross picked him out with a cross just before the interval. He twisted away from his marker but could not muster the power in his shot. Again, Lopez dropped to his left and made the save.

Marseille hit the woodwork in each half. First a deflected shot by wing back Jonathan Clauss, which clipped Gross, spun high over goalkeeper Jason Steele and caught the bar on the way down.

The second came from Amine Harit, who wriggled into space and beat Steele with a low shot, which thumped into the base of a post, ricocheted into the goalkeeper and Jan-Paul van Hecke hooked clear before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could pounce.

Lopez saved from Gilmour in the second half and Adingra skied an excellent chance created by Mitoma before Pedro seized the moment and sparked wild celebrations in the Amex Stadium.

There were scenes of ecstasy at the final whistle as Brighton continued their amazing journey

There were scenes of ecstasy at the final whistle as Brighton continued their amazing journey

Jonathan Clauss hit the woodwork with a deflected shot as Marseille searched for a goal

Jonathan Clauss hit the woodwork with a deflected shot as Marseille searched for a goal

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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‘Joao is playing very well, he is becoming a great player,’ said De Zerbi, who had almost lost his voice screaming on the touchline. ‘I lost my voice, I lost everything. It was an amazing game. We played amazing football.

‘We deserved to reach the top of the table and it is important because we play two games less. We are very happy, we are very proud, for the club, for Brighton, for our fans, for our players, for the people who work inside the club.

‘We didn’t win anything but we were really proud. This is the best moment in my time here. We want to dream.’

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