Football Features

Johnny on the spot – Joao Pedro continues perfect penalty record as Brighton hold off late Tottenham fight back

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:32, 28 December 2023

Joao Pedro was the star of the show for Brighton as they beat Tottenham 4-2 in the Premier League on Thursday night.

Tottenham looked to have put their terrible run of form behind them over the festive period, winning three games in a row going into this fixture. Ange Postecoglou’s side thrashed Newcastle United before beating Nottingham Forest and Everton, lifting them back into the top four conversation.

At the same time, Brighton were winless in three, drawing with Burnley and Crystal Palace either side of a defeat to Chelsea. On paper, all signs pointed to a Tottenham win. But no one told Joao Pedro.

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The Brazilian was making his 50th Premier League appearance, including his spell with Watford, but has had to make do with more of a substitute role for Brighton this season despite being tipped by many to lead the line. In fact, Joao Pedro has had a better run of games in the Europa League where he scored six in six group stage games to send Brighton to the last 16.

But there has been a mini run of starts in the Premier League, with this being the fourth time in the past five games in which the Brazilian has been in Roberto De Zerbi’s initial XI. And it’s paid off. Brighton had to suffer some Tottenham chances but they went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with their North London opponents, and took the lead thanks to a powerful finish from Jack Hinshelwood.

It was the teenager’s second Premier League goal of the season, and he beat the excellent Guglielmo Vicario with a fine finish, but there needed to be special mention for Joao Pedro. The Brazilian was the one to set up the goal, with a weaving run across the edge of the area, made by his skill on the ball with a touch of luck. But there was no luck about the pass, finding Hinshelwood in space with enough power to evade the defenders.

Tottenham were trailing 1-0 for the first time since late September, having scored first in their last 12 Premier League games, and just over 10 minutes later their were 2-0 down. This time it came from the penalty spot as Dejan Kulusesvki was rightly penalised for impeding Danny Welbeck in the box, though it was bizarre that it needed VAR to make the decision.

While the review was going on, and the referee looking at the screen, Joao Pedro was waiting patiently at the penalty spot ready to take what he felt was a stonewall spot-kick. The decision was given and Joao Pedro did step up to calmly score his penalty, sending Vicario the wrong way.

The goal also secured the first ever occasion in which Joao Pedro had both scored and assisted in a single Premier League game, a fitting way to cap reaching the milestone of 50 appearances. The Brazilian had a chance to make it 3-0 before the break having been played through by an errant Pedro Porro pass, but his attempted dink was saved by Vicario who got just enough on the ball to send it wide.

Pervis Estupinan did make it three just after the hour mark with a rocket of a strike that even Vicario couldn’t keep out, sending a shot right into the top corner from outside the box on his return from injury. That goal came at the perfect time for Brighton too, as Tottenham had been threatening and saw a goal by Richarlison disallowed for offside. And there was still time for Joao Pedro to score another penalty after Giovani Lo Celso brought down Evan Ferguson from behind in the box.

It was Joao Pedro’s seventh and eighth penalties scored across all competitions this season, with a perfect record — in fact he’s yet to miss a penalty in his senior club career, also scoring three from three for Watford. No player in Europe’s big five leagues has scored more penalty goals in all competitions this season than Joao Pedro.

“He’s very, very comfortable in that position, whether that’s in the Premier League, whether it’s in Europe,” former Brighton striker Glenn Murray told Amazon Prime Video.

“He is so comfortable from 12 yards, he has got nerves of steel that boy.”

The job was complete, and three points stayed at the Amex, even with Alejo Veliz and Ben Davies pulling two back in the final 10 minutes.