A first-time strike in the 52nd minute from Aston Villa loanee Darren Bent saw the 30-year-old forward make a lively return to first-team football with Brighton & Hove Albion, although it wasn’t enough to see off his former loan club in Fulham as the Seagulls slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.
Swapping the claret and blue of his parent club Aston Villa for the blue and white stripes of East Sussex, Bent began his month-long stint under Sami Hyypia with fellow Villa loanees Joe Bennett and Gary Gardner taking their places at left-back and centre-midfield respectively.
Having only managed three substitute appearances this season under Villa manager Paul Lambert, Bent had an objective to fulfill as he took to the field as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The 13th minute saw Bent’s first chance, as Joe Bennett picked his man out with a cross that allowed for a headed effort from close range on goal, only to be saved by the right leg of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.
Late in the first half, Bent again made his attacking intentions known, after a through ball from attacking midfielder Adrian Colunga found Bent at the centre of the box, with his right-footed shot parried away by Bettinelli.
Seven minutes after the restart, Bent broke the deadlock and finally opened his account for the season after Colunga sent a lengthy pass through to find the number 39 striker at the left side of the box, allowing for the forward to slot home a left-footed shot under Bettinelli and into the Fulham net.
The script couldn’t have been written any better for Bent, marking his home debut with a goal, against the club that took him on loan for the duration of last season that ultimately saw the Cottagers relegated to the Championship.
With his last competitive goal coming in a thrilling 2-2 draw for the Cottagers at Old Trafford on February 9, Bent made no intentions of keeping quiet, taunting the away fans in celebration as they jeered their former striker in disapproval.
Back in the groove
The Seagulls held onto their lead for all of ten minutes before Hugo Rodallega, Bent’s strike partner at Craven Cottage last season, sent his effort into the top-right corner past Brighton keeper and former Fulham teammate David Stockdale in the 61st minute.
In the 76th minute, Kit Symons’ men completed their comeback after a shot from Bryan Ruiz from outside the box hit Lasse Vigen Christensen’s foot on the way towards goal, making its way past keeper David Stockdale and into the back of the net.
To add to the home team’s woes, Adrian Colunga was shown a red card in the 90th minute by referee Simon Hooper after two bookable offences within the space of two minutes.
Although his efforts couldn’t deliver a victory on his debut for the Seagulls, Bent has shown that he is still capable of delivering the goods when given the chance and now has a solid foundation to build on as he looks to recapture the form that is expected from a player of his caliber.