Luton’s first match back in the top flight for 31 years ended in heavy defeat as Joao Pedro and Simon Adingra marked their debuts with a goal each in a comfortable Brighton win.
Solly March headed in after 35 minutes before Pedro, signed for a club-record fee around £30m from Watford, scored a second-half penalty following a foul by Luton captain Tom Lockyer.
The Hatters pulled a goal back with nine minutes remaining when last season’s top scorer Carlton Morris converted another penalty – awarded for handball against Lewis Dunk – but 21-year-old Ivorian Adingra sealed the Seagulls’ win by slotting home after a bad mistake from Luton’s Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu.
Eighteen-year-old Ireland international Evan Ferguson then tapped in Pervis Estupinan’s cross in stoppage time to cap an impressive start to the campaign for the home side.
The Hatters had acquitted themselves well in their first Premier League outing – their last match in the top flight came in 1992 before Premier League rebrand – but Brighton were worthy winners.
Pedro, 21, should have opened the scoring after five minutes but scuffed a gilt-edged chance wide from eight yards.
The Seagulls, who left midfielder Moises Caicedo out of their squad amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool, also hit the post three times.
“I think we played well,” manager Roberto de Zerbi said.
“We are not at our best yet because there are new players and we need to give them time to understand our ideas, but I am happy.”
Seagulls not deterred by disruption
Brighton’s summer has been dominated by outgoings, with midfielder Alexis Mac Allister having left for Liverpool, goalkeeper Robert Sanchez departed to Chelsea, and Ecuador international Caicedo seemingly also on his way to either Anfield or Stamford Bridge.
Although this may only be one win, and against newly-promoted opposition, the start made by De Zerbi’s side suggested that they can cope with significant losses again, as they have done in recent seasons.
Brighton have built their success since earning promotion in 2017 on superb recruitment, allowing them to seamlessly replace those they sell, and the contributions made by Pedro and Adingra indicated the club may have struck gold again.
Pedro made a wasteful start but threatened regularly in the second half before deservedly getting his goal when he scored a soft penalty that was awarded to him after Lockyer put his arm across the Brazilian in the box.
Winger Adingra was signed in the summer of 2022 and after an impressive loan spell at Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise, also part-owned by Brighton chairman Tony Bloom, caught the eye in pre-season and was lively after replacing March in the 74th minute here.
Despite the outgoings, Brighton still have a dependable core, only added to by the arrival of the experienced and versatile James Milner who made a solid debut at right-back.
March, who came through the academy and has now played 276 times for the Seagulls, was a threat throughout while Ferguson’s goal gives him the perfect start as he attempts to build on a debut season that included finding the net six times.
Tougher tests will come but this was an impressive start.
Mistakes cost Luton
Luton have taken a measured approach since securing their top flight status.
Six new signings were handed debuts on the south coast – goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, wing-backs Ryan Giles and Issa Kabore, midfielder Tahith Chong, centre-back Mads Andersen and striker Jacob Brown – but their summer spending has totalled just £17m.
There were reasons to be positive for the Hatters. Their direct approach meant Brighton were threatened by crosses into the box and centre-forward Morris had forced a good save from Jason Steele before his spot-kick goal.
But, though it may be cliché to say it, at Premier League level their mistakes will likely be punished.
Amari’i Bell was caught under the ball when March headed in Kaoru Mitoma’s cross and Mpanzu gifted Adingra his goal when trying to play out from his own box.
Midfielder Mpanzu has been with Luton since their time outside the Football League, which came as recently as 2014, and in playing at Amex Stadium he became the first player to feature for the same club in each of England’s top five leagues.
The Luton players were still warmly applauded by their vociferous travelling support at the final whistle.
“I don’t want anyone to be happy about losing football matches – we’re certainly not,” manager Rob Edwards said.
“[But} I was pleased with stuff I saw today. I know we’re going to get better, but we’ve got to get better quickly.
“I thought we were right in the game at 1-0 and at 2-1 but we shot ourselves in the foot.”