Substitute Hemed stakes claim for Premier League starting spot as Brighton beat Ligue 1 Nantes in final pre-season friendly

Substitute Tomer Hemed netted in Albion's friendly win over Nantes. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Substitute Tomer Hemed netted in Albion's friendly win over Nantes. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Substitute Tomer Hemed scored and teed up another as Brighton finished their pre-season programme with a 2-1 win over Ligue 1 Nantes in front of a crowd of 11,617 at the Amex this evening.

Hemed, introduced in place of Glenn Murray early on, fired Albion ahead eight minutes before the break then laid up German Pascal Gross for his second half strike - with Valentin Rongier's late effort proving just a consolation.

Israeli international Hemed, after netting twice in the Premier League last season, could now lead the line in Albion's curtain-raiser at Watford next Saturday.

With Murray forced off in the first half, both summer signing Florin Andone and Jurgen Locadia not in the squad against Nantes, Hemed will have done his hopes of starting at the Hornets no harm.

New signing Bernardo was handed a start by Albion boss Chris Hughton, with other summer additions Leon Balogun, David Button, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Yves Bissouma all on the bench. There was no place in the squad for Jose Izquierdo or Florin Andone.

Brighton, playing in their first and only pre-season game at the Amex, survived a couple of early scares as Nantes offered a threat.

Enock Kwateng got in behind Albion's defence, only for a fine recovery tackle from Solly March to deny him before Emiliano Sala fired the rebound wide. Centre-back Shane Duffy then got away with one as Sala caught him in possession on the edge of Albion's area, then went down under a challenge which referee Roger East did not deem a foul - all inside the opening ten minutes.

Forward Glenn Murray was forced off minutes later - a concern for Albion with new signing Florin Andone and Jurgen Locadia not in the squad to face Nantes - replaced by Tomer Hemed.

The Israeli frontman could have found the net on a couple of occasions minutes after being introduced. Keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu was on hand to keep out point-blank flicked header from Pascal Gross' dangerous free-kick on 20 minutes. Then a minute later, Hemed was picked out by a superb Anthony Knockaert cross but headed straight at Tatarusanu from all of six yards.

Duffy had the ball in the net just after the half-hour, heading home Gross' corner, but referee East awarded Nantes a free-kick for a foul on goalkeeper Tatarusanu.

Brighton did break the deadlock eight minutes before the break. Skipper Bruno picked out livewire Knockeart's neat run, the Frenchman glided away and squad for substitute Hemed to slot home.

Albion doubled their lead four minutes after the restart. Hemed took the ball off Abdoulaye Toure in his own area, picked out the onrushing Gross who got the home side's second.

Defender Duffy had the ball in the net again six minutes later - this time he was denied by the offside flag after heading in a Knockaert cross.

Summer signings Jahanbakhsh and Bissouma came on for their first outings at the Amex 18 minutes from time, replacing Davy Propper and Knockaert, who impressed throughout, respectively.

Ligue 1 outfit Nantes got one back ten minutes from time when Rongier's effort from the edge of the area beat Australian international goalkeeper Mat Ryan but Brighton held on for a 2-1 victory.

Brighton: Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross; Murray. Subs: Button, Bong, Kayal, Bissouma (Propper, 72), Hemed (Murray, 16), Balogun, Jahanbakhsh (Knockaert, 72), Schelotto, White, Gyokeres, Suttner.

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