Alireza Jahanbakhsh said it was “an emotional moment” to score his first goal for Brighton as they beat relegation rivals Bournemouth in the Premier League.
The Iran winger, making his 27th appearance for the club, blasted home from 16 yards after Neal Maupay’s lay-off.
He appeared close to tears afterwards with even goalkeeper Mat Ryan running forward to join in the jubilant celebrations.
“I have been waiting for this time for a long time,” he told BBC Sport after scoring in his first Premier League start of the season. “Before the match I had a great feeling and I’m glad to help us win the game.”
Dan Burn had a second goal ruled out by the video assistant referee for a marginal offside several phases of play before he smashed home.
And Yves Bissouma struck the post as Brighton – not for the first time this season – struggled to get a second goal to kill the game off.
But the clinching strike came as Aaron Mooy controlled Leandro Trossard’s cross before firing in his first Seagulls goal.
Bournemouth only had two shots on target, with one of those coming from Junior Stanislas on his return from eight months out with a knee injury.
Graham Potter’s Brighton move three points above Bournemouth, with both clubs on a similar run of form – one win in eight before this game – and only previously separated on goals scored.
Jahanbakhsh finally ends goal drought
Jahanbakhsh’s time in England has not gone to plan. There were high hopes for him when he joined Brighton 18 months ago, having just won the Dutch golden boot with AZ Alkmaar with 21 goals before playing at the World Cup for Iran.
But he failed to score in 25 appearances last campaign and was making his first Premier League start of the season against Bournemouth in one of seven changes from their Boxing Day defeat by Tottenham.
The 26-year-old spoke recently about wanting to work hard to get into the team despite rumours of a January departure – and started confidently with a good first-minute cross into the box.
His goal – a strike which could kickstart his English career – came soon after.
He made no mistake with his 38th shot for the club, rifling an effort into the bottom corner after good play by Maupay to net Brighton’s quickest Premier League goal.
“I had ups and downs last year, trying to settle,” Jahanbakhsh said. “This season it felt good with the new manager. He wanted to use different players, but I’ve been doing well in training and was ready for my chance.
“It took longer than I expected.”
Potter said: “It was a great moment for everyone in the stadium, especially Ali. He deserves it. He worked away every day, with exemplary behaviour. We all wanted him to contribute and he did that today.”
Brighton dominated possession like they usually do and created the better chances, with Maupay driving two shots over the bar before half-time.
Burn thought he had scored his first goal for the club when he swivelled and fired home a shot on the bounce. But the VAR spotted Burn was offside by millimetres when Mooy had crossed in his free-kick – even though the ball had bobbled around the box with several players on both sides getting a touch before it reached Burn.
Mooy then went close from 25 yards before Bissouma ran from the centre circle before smashing a shot off the post.
The second goal that Potter’s side deserved eventually came, a classy finish by Mooy, who took down Trossard’s cross on his chest before stepping past Chris Mepham and stroking a shot home.
Brighton’s first home win and first clean sheet in the league since 2 November takes them up to 13th – albeit before the rest of the weekend’s games.
Struggles ahead for Bournemouth?
Bournemouth seem to do this every year and always escape, terrible runs of form in between excellent bursts with enough points to keep them safe. But what if the good run does not come?
They were seventh after beating Manchester United on 2 November but have won once in nine games since, and could yet end the weekend in the relegation zone.
Like Brighton they made plenty of changes – five from the 1-1 draw against Arsenal on 26 December. But they were slow out of the blocks and trailed to Jahanbakhsh’s early strike.
They could have equalised after seven minutes, when King ran in on goal but fired straight at Ryan. That was their best chance of the game.
Stanislas looked rusty on his first appearance since April, giving away possession needlessly at one stage to start a Brighton attack, although he was the only other Bournemouth player to test Ryan.
Dominic Solanke is soon approaching the year anniversary of his £19m move from Liverpool but has yet to score for the club. He had a good chance to get a shot away but took too much time and was well tackled by Lewis Dunk.
Bournemouth’s injury problems also increased. King and Jack Stacey went off with suspected hamstring injuries, with the Cherries having to play the final 10 minutes a man down having used all their substitutes.
“With a small squad the Christmas period is the ultimate test and you need to rotate players,” said boss Eddie Howe. “It looks like we’ve lost Joshua King and Jack Stacey so it is not a good day.
“The games come thick and fast and this was one of the games we needed to get something and we didn’t. We need to learn our lessons.
“The strength of the squad has been knocked and that allows a feeling of feeling sorry for yourself if you don’t get the results you want. But we have to go again, find the inner strength and keep going.”
Man of the match – Aaron Mooy
Match stats – Brighton end long wait for win over Bournemouth
- This was Brighton’s first league win over Bournemouth since a 3-2 win at the old Withdean Stadium in League One on New Year’s Day 2008.
- Brighton have won four of their last seven Premier League home games (D1 L2), as many as they had won in their previous 18 at the Amex Stadium.
- Since the start of the 2015-16 season, only Watford (50) have lost more Premier League away games than Bournemouth (47).
- Only Liverpool (16) have had more different goalscorers in the Premier League this season than Brighton (11).
- Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh became the third Iranian player to score in Premier League history (also Andranik Teymourian and Ashkan Dejagah).
- Jahanbakhsh netted his first goal in 1552 minutes of action in all competitions since his debut for the Seagulls in August 2018.
- Brighton’s Aaron Mooy ended a run of 17 Premier League appearances without a goal.
- Neal Maupay has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than any other Brighton player (seven goals, one assist).
Brighton host Chelsea on New Year’s Day (12:30 GMT), with Bournemouth going to West Ham five hours later.