'Smart' Brighton earn first clean sheet of season

Brighton's Italian head coach Roberto De Zerbi (L) shakes hands with Brighton's English midfielder #41 Jack Hinshelwood at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Brighton and Hove Albion at the London Stadium, in London, on January 2, 2024. 

Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi praised his side's "very smart game" after they kept their first Premier League clean sheet of the season at West Ham.

It was the first time in 24 league matches Brighton have not conceded a goal, ending a club-record run.

Brighton had more possession and better chances in a largely dour game to open 2024 for both sides at London Stadium.

But they were unable to break through a West Ham defence which in contrast has now kept four consecutive clean sheets.

De Zerbi said the focus on Brighton's failure to shut out opponents was more a media concern than his, but he was nevertheless happy with his defence.

He told BBC Sport: "I'm really pleased with the performance. We made a clean sheet so the journalists are happy because Brighton made a clean sheet.

"We played a great game. We deserved to win. We played a very smart game because the best quality of West Ham is counter-attack and we played with a focus - don't concede a counter-attack.

"We created eight clear chances to score and I'm really pleased for the performance, the understanding of the play I want and demand."

The Italian added it was "one of the best [games] in my time" as Brighton boss afterwards.

A point moves Brighton into seventh place, above Manchester United, while West Ham are three points further ahead in sixth.

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