Adebayo hits hat-trick as Luton defeat Brighton

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Luton found the net twice within the initial three minutes, and Elijah Adebayo secured a hat-trick in a noteworthy triumph over Brighton, propelling the Hatters out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Adebayo provided the opening goal by heading Luton in front, beating Seagulls goalkeeper Jason Steele to Carlton Morris’ knockdown in just 18 seconds.

Shortly thereafter, the hosts extended their lead in less than two minutes, with Chiedozie Ogbene outsmarting the Brighton offside trap and putting the ball past the onrushing Steele.

Leicester City remains the sole team to secure a quicker 2-0 lead in a Premier League match, achieving it against Derby in April 1998.

Adebayo secured his second goal and Luton’s third late in the first half, capitalizing on Ross Barkley’s pass. Jordan Clark’s attempt to make it 4-0 early in the second half was thwarted by an offside flag.

Brighton’s relief was short-lived, as former Walsall striker Adebayo headed home Alfie Doughty’s corner, becoming 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.

Despite Steele’s late save denying Morris at his near post, it did little to spare Brighton’s embarrassment on a challenging evening for Roberto de Zerbi and his players.

The outcome propels Luton above Everton and out of the bottom three, while Brighton slips to eighth place.

“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.”

Prior to the match, Luton captain Tom Lockyer received a warm ovation from fans on both sides as he returned to Kenilworth Road for the first time since experiencing a cardiac arrest during December’s match at Bournemouth.

Adebayo the hero as Luton roar out of traps

Edwards mentioned before the match that his team had “developed” since their 4-1 loss to Brighton in the Premier League opener in August. However, the astonishing start to the contest at Kenilworth Road took everyone by surprise.

Hatters fans had barely settled into their seats when Adebayo’s header put the hosts in the lead. Ogbene’s subsequent effort prompted reactions of exasperation and almost disbelief from both sets of supporters.

Incredibly, these were Luton’s initial goals within the first 15 minutes of a Premier League game this season.

Edwards’ team had a chance to extend their lead when Clark’s left-footed shot was blocked by Steele. However, they didn’t have to wait much longer for the third goal, as Adebayo calmly slotted the ball past the Seagulls goalkeeper three minutes before halftime.

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 has been prolific in scoring goals during the 2024 FA Cup, but their goal-scoring endeavors in the league have proven to be much more challenging.

Following consecutive goalless draws against West Ham and Wolves, the Seagulls failed to produce a shot on target until the 77th minute in the match at Kenilworth Road.

Their defensive performance was equally lacking, responding initially to a dire start but struggling to handle Luton’s physicality. Brighton appeared vulnerable to conceding whenever the hosts initiated attacks.

The halftime introductions of Tariq Lamptey and Evan Ferguson had little impact, and were it not for the linesman’s flag and commendable goalkeeping from Steele, Luton could have secured a victory with a margin of five or six goals.

“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 nature of the loss will linger in the minds of Brighton supporters, and with upcoming matches against rivals Crystal Palace and Tottenham, De Zerbi faces the challenging task of reversing his team’s poor form in the Premier League since the beginning of the year.