(Reuters) -Stunning long-range goals in each half from captain James Ward-Prowse helped Southampton rescue a point at Brighton & Hove Albion with a 2-2 draw in an entertaining Premier League contest at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.
Graham Potter’s side were cruising thanks to an early strike from Danny Welbeck and an own goal by Mohammed Salisu, but Ward-Prowse sparked a comeback after scoring directly from a free-kick and completed it with a fierce low drive from 22 yards.
Ward-Prowse has scored 14 goals directly from free-kicks in the Premier League, four fewer than his childhood hero and former England and Manchester United midfielder David Beckham who holds the record.
“My main motivation is to meet my hero from when I was a kid. If I do get that record, hopefully he’ll reach out – but there’s a long way to go yet,” Ward-Prowse said.
“We gifted them two goals and we felt at half-time we were very much in the game. It’s frustrating when you give teams those sort of leads but we showed great character… Probably, on another day we would have nicked a third.”
Brighton led with two minutes on the clock through Welbeck, who tapped into an empty net after visiting goalkeeper Fraser Forster fumbled Marc Cucurella’s low cross into the box.
The Saints’ Tino Livramento hit the post before Welbeck tested Forster with another powerful shot, and Brighton’s Neal Maupay had a goal disallowed for offside. Livramento was then stretchered off after suddenly going to ground as he looked to challenge Brighton defender Enock Mwepu.
With half-time approaching, Brighton’s Leandro Trossard sent a low ball into the box, but Forster and Salisu managed to scramble it off the line.
The Southampton defence crumbled again a minute later, however, as another ball from Trossard was awkwardly prodded into his own net by Salisu.
Cucurella fouled Nathan Tella late in the first half and Ward-Prowse whipped the resulting free-kick through the Brighton wall to drag Southampton back into the game, and in the second half he fired in again after being set up by Oriol Romeu’s backheel.
Both teams had chances to seal victory, and Brighton thought they had done so when Pascal Gross struck late, but the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside and Southampton held on to deny the hosts their first home victory of the year.
The result means Brighton have now matched their record Premier League points tally of 41 from the 2019-20 campaign, when they finished 15th, with four more games to play this season.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon and Hugh Lawson)