Brighton & Hove Albion kicked off the 2015/16 English football season in style with a gripping 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest at the Amex, thanks to a trademark strike from Kazenga LuaLua.
Manager Chris Hughton handed Gaetan Bong and Tomer Hemed their competitive Albion debuts, after keeping the same side that recorded an impressive 1-0 victory over Europa League holders Sevilla the previous Sunday.
In a lively start for the hosts, Solly March created the first Albion opening for LuaLua, whose shot produced a low save from Forest keeper Dorus De Vries.
The visitors had their own chance to break the deadlock just 60 seconds later, as Henri Lansbury’s curling free-kick clipped the outside of the post.
Bong was a threat down the left flank for Hughton’s side and his cross on the overlap had just a tad too much pace for the oncoming Hemed.
Bruno then delivered a sweeping cross into the area after some good link-up play with March, but Hemed’s header was comfortably gathered by De Vries.
Albion's best chance of the half fell to Beram Kayal, who was found in space by the lively LuaLua, but his low, driven effort clipped the post.
Forest still carried a threat on the counter-attack; Michail Antonio surging towards the Albion goal only to see his shot well saved by David Stockdale.
Albion really began to take the game to Forest as the half wore on; Bruno floated a ball into the path of Dale Stephens, whose header forced a quick reaction save from De Vries.
LuaLua continued to torment the Forest backline and he set up a chance for Sam Baldock, who flashed an effort wide from a central position just outside the area.
In almost the last action of the first half, March delivered an enticing ball into the box but Hemed’s goalbound header was somehow kept out by a superb reaction save from De Vries.
The Seagulls finally broke the deadlock after 51 minutes when man-of-the-match LuaLua worked himself an angle on the left-hand side and drilled an unstoppable, fizzing low strike past De Vries.
He attempted to repeat his heroics ten minutes later with another driving run down the left flank, but on this occasion his effort drifted wide of the target.
March was next to threaten Dougie Freedman’s side from the right, but he dragged his shot wide of the near post.
Forest substitute Tyler Walker arguably had the best chance of the half for the visitors as he sprinted towards the Albion goal, but was tracked all the way by Lewis Dunk, whose perfectly-timed sliding challenge allowed David Stockdale to make a comfortable save.
March had a chance to complete a memorable evening, only to blaze his shot over the bar, but Albion played the clock down to pick up a deserved victory.
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