Brighton 1-0 Aston Villa: Late Joao Pedro strike hits Aston Villa's top-four hopes

Brighton striker Joao Pedro
Brighton striker Joao Pedro has scored 20 goals in all competitions this season [Getty Images]

Joao Pedro struck a late winner as Brighton put a dent in Aston Villa's Champions League hopes at the Amex Stadium.

The Brazilian headed home a rebound in the 87th minute after his penalty was saved by Robin Olsen.

Pascal Gross had an earlier effort for the hosts ruled out for offside by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), while Villa captain John McGinn was also judged to be inches ahead of the Brighton defence before scoring at the other end.

Unai Emery's fourth-placed side remain seven points clear of Tottenham, who have two games in hand and visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Having suffered a disappointing loss to Olympiakos in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night, Villa missed the chance to strengthen their hold on fourth with two matches left.

They were sluggish throughout and Brighton looked to have taken a deserved lead in the 68th minute when Gross met a Pedro cross with a clever finish, but VAR ruined his celebrations.

The Seagulls had found Villa keeper Olsen - replacing the injured Emiliano Martinez - in fine form, but kept pressing.

When winger Simon Adingra went to ground in the box under a challenge from Ezri Konsa, referee Robert Jones pointed to the spot.

It was almost in keeping with the game that Pedro had his penalty pushed away by Olsen, but the striker was sharp enough to nod home the rebound.

Roberto de Zerbi's side moved up to 11th in the table after ending a disappointing six-match winless run and claiming their first home success against Villa since 1980.

Brighton struggling for goals

A lack of goals is not something often associated with De Zerbi's Brighton, but they have now only scored five times in their last 10 Premier League fixtures.

The Seagulls started the game full of attacking intent but clear-cut chances were hard to come by in a scrappy encounter.

Sweden international Olsen produced two fine saves in either half to deny Gross and then Pedro as Villa's backline was breached.

Brighton's free-flowing style was a highlight of an impressive start to the season, but they looked to have lost confidence.

Adingra and Pedro showcased their talent on occasions but there seems to be a lack of cohesion between the Brighton attack as their campaign nears a frustrating end.

But for Pedro's 20th goal of the season, it would have been a third successive game without scoring.

Emery needs to lift Villa after miserable week

Villa fans have suffered more than most this week with successive defeats.

Before the Europa Conference League semi-final first leg tie with Olympiakos, they were full of hope and expectation.

There was disbelief after the 4-2 home loss and the loss to Brighton will further add to their misery.

Three points for Villa would have put one foot in the Champions League next season and given them a lift for their second-leg return in Greece.

Emery will need to pick up his players up for one last push to make sure they don't blow the chance of making this season a memorable one.