Sheffield United’s hopes of qualifying for Europe were frustrated as Neal Maupay marked his return to Brighton by equalising.
Enda Stevens’ rasping finish put the Blades in control but the lead was short-lived as Maupay got in front of Dean Henderson to nod the visitors level.
Lewis Dunk missed a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead after the Blades lost Stevens to injury.
John Fleck, who signed a new Sheffield United contract until 2023 before kick-off, went close from distance but Brighton worked hard to secure a third successive draw.
With 11 games still remaining, the Blades have reached 40 points – the magic number that is supposedly needed to guarantee Premier League survival.
It’s a tremendous achievement for a team that only won promotion last season, but Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has made it clear he wants to kick on and achieve other targets.
The Blades have every chance of securing a top-four or top-five finish, which would rank as one of the greatest achievement of the Premier League era – yet they were unable to finish off a Brighton side battling to stay away from the bottom three.
Their first game back from the winter break appeared to be going to plan when Stevens, who was playing in League Two with Portsmouth three years ago, produced a quality finish after Brighton could only half-clear Oliver Norwood’s cross.
Yet Brighton was level 193 seconds later as United, who lost Stevens to injury, struggled to reach the heights that have seen them dismantle so many teams this season.
Oli McBurnie and Fleck had chances to win it and send the Blades above Tottenham into the fifth spot, which could be enough to earn a place in next season’s Champions League now that Manchester City has been banned from Uefa competitions for the next two seasons, pending an appeal.
But for now, Chris Wilder’s side stays sixth – level on points with Spurs.
Brighton remains without a Premier League win in 2020 – a worrying statistic as they try and keep some distance between themselves and the bottom three.
Yet for the third successive game, they demonstrated they have the character for scrap as they came from behind to take a point.
A return to goalscoring form for French forward Maupay could be critical, especially in view of Brighton’s tough run.
Although they are four points above the relegation zone, six of their remaining 11 games are against Wolves (away), Arsenal (home), Leicester (away), Manchester United (home), Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home).
Maupay, who started the previous two games on the substitutes bench, was at his sharpest to score after Aaron Mooy’s long ball forward had been flicked on – the former Brentford player’s eighth league goal of the season and his first in nine top-flight appearances.
While Brighton has forgotten how to win – their last league success was on 28 December 2019 – boss Graham Potter will have come away with several positives after frustrating a side that has taken the Premier League by storm.
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Source – BBC