Match ends, Luton Town 4, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
‘People might take notice’ – Adebayo treble helps Luton thump Brighton30 January 2024
Luton scored twice inside the opening three minutes and Elijah Adebayo claimed a hat-trick in a remarkable victory over Brighton which lifted the Hatters out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Adebayo nodded the home side in front when he beat Seagulls goalkeeper Jason Steele to Carlton Morris' knockdown with just 18 seconds on the clock.
And the hosts doubled their lead less than two minutes later, Chiedozie Ogbene beating the Brighton offside trap and knocking the ball past the onrushing Steele.
Leicester City are the only side to take a quicker 2-0 lead in a Premier League match, against Derby in April 1998.
Adebayo struck his second and Luton's third of the game late in the first half after running on to Ross Barkley's pass, and Jordan Clark thought he had made it 4-0 early in the second but was denied by an offside flag.
But Brighton's reprieve was only temporary as former Walsall striker Adebayo nodded home Alfie Doughty's corner to become the first Luton player to score a top-flight hat-trick since Lars Elstrup against Norwich in September 1990, and the first at Kenilworth Road since Mark Stein against Oxford in February 1988.
Steele denied Morris late on with a smart save at his near post, but it did little to spare Brighton's blushes on a desperate evening for Roberto de Zerbi and his players.
The result lifts Luton above Everton and out of the bottom three, while Brighton drop to eighth.
"I feel - we feel - the best way for us to go in this league is to attack," Hatters manager Rob Edwards told BBC Match of the Day. "We've done that to quite a few teams - it's how we play.
"With a result and performance like this, a few people might take notice of it a little bit more. We're going to keep driving the players.
"We have to keep our foot down. We can't afford to stop because we're not good enough to do that."
Before the game, Luton captain Tom Lockyer was greeted by an ovation from both sets of supporters as he made his first appearance at Kenilworth Road since suffering a cardiac arrest in December's game at Bournemouth.
Adebayo the hero as Luton roar out of traps
Edwards said before the game that his team had "evolved" since losing 4-1 at Brighton in their Premier League opener back in August, but no-one inside Kenilworth Road was expecting such a remarkable opening to the contest.
Hatters fans had barely taken their seats when Adebayo headed the hosts in front, and Ogbene's effort shortly afterwards was met with exasperation bordering on disbelief by both sets of fans.
Remarkably, those were Luton's first goals inside the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game this season.
Edwards' side could have gone further ahead when Clark's left-footed drive was blocked by Steele, but they did not have to wait long for goal number three as Adebayo finished low past the Seagulls goalkeeper three minutes before the interval.
The home fans were chanting "Town are staying up!" by the time Adebayo completed his hat-trick in the second half - and who can blame them after watching their side deliver such an emphatic display against a Brighton side who will feature in the Europa League last 16 in March.
"Through my whole career, you dream of nights like this, [after] playing non-league," said Adebayo, who spent time on loan at Slough Town and Bognor Regis Town as a youngster at Fulham.
"I couldn't be happier for the group of lads that are in there, who have been on an incredible journey.
"It's a fantastic night. This group's special. I'm delighted with how everyone performed."
This was Luton's biggest top-flight win since beating Southampton 6-1 in January 1989, and although they have a lot more work to do to retain their Premier League status, this result suggests they have what it takes to confound pre-season predictions and beat the drop.
Brighton fail to recover from nightmare start
Brighton have been scoring goals for fun in the FA Cup in 2024, but they are finding them much harder to come by in the league.
After back-to-back 0-0 draws against West Ham and Wolves, the Seagulls failed to register a shot on target until the 77th minute of the contest at Kenilworth Road.
They were no better at the other end of the pitch - quite the contrary.
Having initially responded well to such a dreadful start, the Seagulls struggled to cope with Luton's physicality and looked in danger of conceding whenever the hosts ventured forward.
The half-time introductions of Tariq Lamptey and Evan Ferguson had no effect, and had it not been for the linesman's flag and some impressive goalkeeping from Steele, Luton could have won by five or six.
"We did not play. It was a blackout," De Zerbi told BBC Match of the Day. "We played badly. Everyone has to take responsibility - myself first of all.
"I feel sorry for our fans. We have to remember this day. We are suffering from this result more than people think."
The manner of the defeat will rankle with Brighton supporters for quite some time and with games against rivals Crystal Palace and Tottenham coming up, De Zerbi has a job on his hands to arrest his team's poor Premier League form since the turn of the year.
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 28Sambi LokongaBooked at 25minsSubstituted forMpanzuat 68'minutes
- 6BarkleySubstituted forBerryat 82'minutes
- 18ClarkBooked at 65minsSubstituted forTownsendat 68'minutes
- 11AdebayoSubstituted forChongat 71'minutes
- 9MorrisSubstituted forWoodrowat 82'minutes
- 29van Hecke
- 3dos Santos de PauloBooked at 13mins
- 6MilnerSubstituted forHinshelwoodat 20'minutes
- 11GilmourSubstituted forBalebaat 61'minutesBooked at 73mins
- 30EstupiñánSubstituted forLampteyat 45'minutes
- 40BuonanotteSubstituted forFergusonat 45'minutes
- 9João PedroSubstituted forModerat 71'minutes
- Robert Jones
Second Half ends, Luton Town 4, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.