FA Cup Upset: How Brighton Outfoxed Newcastle United
The FA Cup is a special competition. The underdogs don't feel like underdogs, and the favourites really don't feel like favourites.
If you're an English Premier League side drawn away to a League Two side, you're more nervous than you were for the visit to Old Trafford the previous month.
Small, hostile grounds prey on top-tier sides used to playing possession football on a carpet-esque pitch. Fans are in your face to throw you off your game. The style of football you face is so different that you wonder if you're playing the same sport. Oh, the FA Cup!
Many "Cupsets" can be attributed to gritty contests in which the lower-league striker reigned supreme. While that's true for Macclesfield's wonderful victory over Cardiff and Luton's fairytale result over Wolves, it's not the case for Brighton.
Gus Poyet's side were stronger than Alan Pardew's Newcastle. Enforced changes and squad rotation took their toll on the Magpies.
Brighton sent out a ruthlessly effective yet workmanlike side, benching Kazenga LuaLua in favour of a more organised, compact formation. They passed well, moved as a unit and looked comfortable with each other.
The same cannot be said for Newcastle.
With Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote et al departed, out or injured, it felt like Pardew had tipped the contents of his wallet out onto the bar counter at 3 a.m. in search of anything he could use.
The finds? Not a lot. While a team predominantly made up of promising youth players could be solid in a few years' time, this was simply a case of way too much, way too soon.
The starting XI was riddled with tactical inconsistencies, and no player epitomised this more than Gael Bigirimana.
The Burundi midfielder utilised a high-pressing game in an effort to stifle Brighton's control over proceedings, but none of his teammates followed suit. This had a negative effect on the Toon's game, as gaping holes were being left for the Seagulls to fill.
Pardew took his team into the halftime break 1-0 down but did nothing to rectify this, and the rest of the team continued to sit back whilst out of possession and let their midfield colleague run himself spare.
Wayne Bridge, a name I never thought I'd type again, took Gabriel Obertan to the cleaners on more than one occasion. His assist for Andrea Orlandi's goal showed spirit we thought had left him long ago, yet the French winger looked distinctly uninterested in chasing back.
Newcastle fielded 11 different players on 11 different pages. While the depleted options left Pardew little choice but to run with a team made up of relative strangers, there were issues apparent from the third minute that he failed to fix.
Brighton did nothing spectacular to win this game because they didn't have to—Poyet identified togetherness as a key characteristic in this competition and ran with it successfully.
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