Brighton seal stylish Carabao Cup win to end Arsenal’s winning run at home

There will be few sleepless nights at Arsenal over this result and, as their fans were keen to point out, first place in the Premier League is a bigger attraction than Carabao Cup progress. But Mikel Arteta will still be frustrated by defeat to an alert, bold Brighton team who responded superbly to going behind and have a bright future if a young side’s performance is any measure.

Kaoru Mitoma completed the turnaround after Danny Welbeck’s penalty had cancelled out an Eddie Nketiah finish, and Tariq Lamptey added some gloss. It meant Arsenal’s 12-match winning run at the Emirates, Brighton coincidentally the previous opponents to win here, came to an end.

“Losing [is disappointing] but the way the boys tried tonight, and played with the amount of changes we had to make because of the congestion, I’m really happy with that,” Arteta said. He felt the result “doesn’t reflect what happened on the pitch”, although it was hard to go along with that: while Mitoma’s goal had come against the run of play, Arsenal having begun the second half ferociously, Brighton were the sharper going forward for long periods and could easily have scored more.

Arteta had retained only William Saliba from the win at Chelsea; Roberto De Zerbi made eight changes of his own and it was a night to enjoy Brighton’s youthful league of nations. The 20-year-old Jeremy Sarmiento, who will travel to the World Cup with Ecuador, was outstanding and Julio Enciso, an 18-year-old Paraguayan, was not far behind. De Zerbi had wanted his stand-ins to show their mettle and they did not disappoint. “They have the right level,” the Italian said. “I hope they start to believe in themselves more because to play in this stadium you have to believe in yourself, believe in your quality, and they have the ability to play.”

That was evident early on when Sarmiento and Enciso both missed narrowly, the latter also failing to make contact with a presentable headed chance. Arsenal had not got going before Nketiah, profiting from a smooth run inside and perfectly timed pass left by the improving Reiss Nelson, swept a gorgeous first-time finish past Jason Steele. It should have settled them, because while this was a scratch team it was full of experience, but Brighton deserved their equaliser seven minutes later.

It was a moment for Karl Hein, the debutant keeper, to forget. The 20-year-old already has 16 caps for Estonia and a burgeoning reputation but slipped as Welbeck ran on to a through pass. The former Arsenal forward appeared to have taken an overly heavy touch but Hein’s error allowed him to reach the ball first, the keeper clipping him after he did so. The penalty was dispatched calmly.

“He totally deserved his chance and if I have to play him tomorrow again I would,” Arteta said. “We all make mistakes, me the first one, the players all the time, and it’s part of the game. He needs to carry on. When you make an error it’s about how you react, not about the error.”

Arsenal responded well as a collective and, perking up considerably after the interval, saw Nketiah strike a post before Steele saved brilliantly from Nelson. At that point there seemed only one winner but Mitoma, a half-time substitute, finished superbly after a surge and pass from Sarmiento and then, after taking a pass from Billy Gilmour in his stride and eating up the ground in front, Lamptey burst clear to slip past Hein. Arteta summoned Gabriel Jesus and other members of his cavalry but it was too late.

Finding fundamental problems with Arsenal seems spectacularly nitpicky these days but, if anything, the outcome bore out the impression they are walking a tightrope in terms of squad depth. “It’s what we have,” Arteta said, hardly rejecting the idea. It was a rare night of mild angst.