Brighton captain Lewis Dunk reveals that the club is dreaming of Europa League glory after securing a spot in the knockout stages.
Brighton secured a top-two finish in Group B with a game to spare, courtesy of an unconvincing 1-0 victory away to 10-man AEK Athens. Joao Pedro’s 55th-minute penalty made the difference against the Greek champions. The team now looks forward to a final-round fixture at home against Marseille on December 14.
Defender Dunk expressed determination to clinch the top spot in the group. Brighton advance directly to the last 16 and avoid a knockout round play-off against a team dropping out of the Champions League.
“The next game, we’ve got to win. We’ve got to top the group.” Lewis Dunk told Brighton’s website. “I think that’s massive, you miss a round out.
“That’s our next aim in this competition. Who knows how far we can go?
“We want to win it and you’ve got to dream big to achieve it. We’re going to set our sights on reaching the final and winning it.”
Lewis Dunk: It’s a historic day for the club
Brighton, experiencing their inaugural European campaign, struggled in the first half at AEK Arena and narrowly avoided falling behind when Steven Zuber’s shot, deflected off Dunk, struck a post.
The dynamics of the game shifted during a crucial 10-minute period in the second half. Joao Pedro successfully converted a VAR-awarded penalty after being fouled by AEK captain Damian Szymanski. After that, Mijat Gacinovic received a second booking and was subsequently dismissed.
Having previously secured back-to-back victories against four-time European champions Ajax, Brighton joyously celebrated another significant win with the traveling fans. England international Dunk, who made his senior debut when the Seagulls were a League One side, acknowledged that the visitors had to dig deep to secure the triumph.
“It’s massive.” the 32-year-old said of the result. “I think you can see in the celebration at the end what it means.
“It’s a historic day for the football club.
“We came into this tournament to qualify out of the group and we’ve done that tonight.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of our performances. But sometimes you’ve got to win like that and it’s all credit to us.”
Pedro’s successful penalty was his fifth goal in the competition, adding to his match-winning brace as a substitute in Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League victory at Nottingham Forest.
However, Dunk, who had his right shoulder taped up at full-time, received a red card at the City Ground. He will be suspended for Sunday’s trip to Chelsea.
“I’m just nursing a few injuries but you just get on with them.” Lewis Dunk replied when asked about the strapping.
“Frustrating not to be out there. It’s my fault and I’ve got to deal with that myself.”