Just a few months before Brighton’s FA Cup fifth-round triumph at Stoke City, CEO Paul Barber issued statements that the team would rely on in the wake of their semi-final penalty shootout loss to Manchester United.
In February, Barber stated, “I believe that the best football teams are truly discovered when they are tested, when their determination is tested, and when their plan doesn’t exactly go the way they intended. If you can handle some of the hiccups along the way and use your stability as a strength, you’ll feel more at ease since you’ve planned for it and are capable of handling it.”
Nevertheless, March’s miss is little more than a “bump” in a season in which they have lost manager Graham Potter, football director Dan Ashworth, head of recruiting Paul Winstanley, and players worth £160 million. This is especially true given that weekend results mean that Brighton still has European qualifying potential for the first time in the club’s history.
Roberto de Zerbi, the club’s manager stated, “I told him I was a player and made a lot of mistakes with penalties. I informed him that it was thanks to his efforts and goals that we were able to play here. I’m happy for him. It was a dream for us, but it became a dreadful night.”
Brighton, however, outshone their famed opponents at Wembley in terms of possession, corners, and shots. Goalie David de Gea made two outstanding reaction saves to deny De Zerbi’s men entry before the shootout.
Despite being somewhat disappointing, the game itself demonstrated Brighton’s capacity to compete on the field after they had demonstrated tricks in their efforts off it.
“It was a dream for us, but it was a difficult night,” said De Zerbi. “I feel bad for my players because they deserved to play Manchester City in the championship game and to have another amazing day.”