Roberto De Zerbi stressed the importance of changing the mood at Brighton after they beat Ajax 2-0 at the Amex Stadium to claim a first European victory.
It ended a run of five games without a win as the club have struggled with injuries during their debut Europa League campaign, though their European hopes were firmly revived here with a comprehensive triumph over the four-time European champions.
From the first minute Brighton outclassed a poor Ajax side, who just three days after sacking manager Maurice Steijn amidst the club’s worst-ever start to an Eredivisie season, barely mustered an attack.
Tonight’s match winners in Europe! 🤝 pic.twitter.com/jEdpFIVmtE
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) October 26, 2023
The advantage was doubled eight minutes after the break when on-loan Barcelona forward Ansu Fati took a brilliant first touch to come inside his defender and rolled the ball into the corner after being set up by Simon Adingra.
It was a first win in three attempts on the team’s debut European campaign, lifting them to third in Group B and to within a point of leaders Marseille with whom they drew in France three weeks ago.
A win in the return against Ajax in Amsterdam in November will put them in a commanding position to qualify for the knockout rounds ahead of their final two group games.
“The focus today has been the first win in European competition for Brighton, for our fans, for our club, for our owner and for ourselves,” said De Zerbi. “We didn’t deserve to lose against AEK (Athens), and today we wanted 150 per cent the victory.
“We played a great game with high quality. We could score more goals, but the most important thing is we didn’t concede and we closed the game with a clean sheet.
“For us in this moment, it’s important to change the mood, to start winning games, to start to play better because we (have not been) playing like last season.”
The manager praised the contributions of his two goalscorers, with Pedro out in front as the team’s leading European scorer with four goals in three games, whilst Fati also continued his adaption to life in England after moving from La Liga.
“Both are great players, (but) I think both can play better,” said De Zerbi. “We are helping a lot Ansu because he didn’t play so many games last year, for him he’s started a new football life. He’s an incredible player, Joao Pedro as well.
“They’re very young, we have to help them to progress, but they have to help themselves first of all, working hard during the week, and during the game. But they are both incredible players.”
He added: “The level of difficulty is more or less the same (between the Premier League and Europa League), but it’s tougher this season because after 48, 72 hours we have another important game against Fulham.
“This is the challenge that is most difficult for us. We have to accept the honour, because we made history for our club.
“It’s unbelievable and it’s proud for us to be part of this history, but in the same way we have to fight and to adapt, be ready to fight and enjoy and make happy our fans. Playing in Europe for Brighton is a big, big thing.”