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Bafana Bafana striker Tau’s Brighton & Hove Albion debut

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After a promising start for the Seagulls, the South African will be eyeing this week’s Premier League matches against Manchester City and Leeds United 

Bafana Bafana striker Percy Tau ensured that a lot of South Africans had a late Sunday night as he made his long-awaited debut for English Premier League side for Brighton & Hove Albion.

The former Premier Soccer League (PSL) Player of the Season came off the bench in Brighton’s FA Cup third-round tie with Newport County in the 71st minute, with the scores locked at 0-0.

He got to play for around 50 minutes as the match went to extra time and penalties after Solly March’s 90th-minute goal was cancelled out by Adam Webster’s 96th-minute own goal.

By the time the penalty shoot-out was won 4-3 by Brighton, with Webster scoring the decisive kick, it was well past midnight in South Africa.

It was, however, worth staying up for as the former Mamelodi Sundowns forward put in a very promising performance that should give him a good chance of featuring against Manchester City in the league on Wednesday.

For starters, the fact that Brighton manager Graham Potter trusted Tau in an important game and with the match still on a knife-edge – just a couple of days after he arrived at the club following his recall from his loan spell at Anderlecht – says a lot about how much of an impression the man from Witbank has already made.

Tau could well have capped his debut with a goal, but fired a right-footed shot over the bar from about 18-yards out.

That aside, he really was excellent. For one thing, the potential to have let nerves get the better of him, after waiting two years to finally play for Brighton due to work permit issues cannot be understated.

That was not the case though as Tau quickly settled in, despite playing a slightly unfamiliar role as a central striker, and despite the very difficult bumpy pitch at Newport’s Rodney Parade ground.

The tough conditions, as well as the pressure the Seagulls were under not to lose to a fourth-tier side, can also not be overstated, and it was testament to Tau’s composure that he performed so admirably.

Within just a few minutes of coming on he could have had an assist when he teed up a team-mate with a clever header inside the box.

Otherwise his movement was superb, sometimes dropping off to receive the ball, and he barely put a foot wrong – he was busy and involved and seemed to increasingly gain the trust of his new team-mates as the match wore on.

There were a couple of especially memorable moments too, both highlighted on social media by the FA Cup’s official Twitter account – one of which saw him leaving an opponent sprawling on the ground and the other of which saw him delightfully plucking the ball out of the air.

Now South Africans will be eagerly awaiting Wednesday’s match against Manchester City to see if Tau gets to make his Premier League debut.

It could in some ways be an easier match for him – in terms of playing on a world-class pitch, and in a match which could be more measured and tactical than a cup tie against lower league opposition.