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Roberto De Zerbi wants more from two-goal Brighton hero Joao Pedro

The Brazilian took his tally to 15 for the season with a brace at Stoke.

Carl Markham
Saturday 06 January 2024 18:19 GMT
Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi wants more from Joao Pedro (Martin Rickett/PA)
Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi wants more from Joao Pedro (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Wire)

Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi admits he will demand more from Joao Pedro even though only Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah have scored more this season.

The Brazilian’s late double in a 4-2 victory at Stoke avoided a potential FA Cup upset and took his personal tally to 15 in his maiden campaign for the Seagulls.

It equalled Glenn Murray’s 15-goal haul from the 2018-19 season and the club’s best return in a top-flight campaign since Michael Robinson (22) in 1980-81.

Manchester City’s Haaland (19) and Liverpool’s Salah (18) are the only Premier League players to have have scored more in all competitions but De Zerbi believes that is the level to which the youngster has to aspire.

“I love Joao Pedro and I know his potential. I know how he can improve and become important for us,” said the Italian.

“I would like always something more because for us this level of performance is enough but I think he can reach a higher level and to reach that level he can play better, he can push more and more.

“I would like him to start the game in the beginning not in the second half or after 20 minutes and I will tell him my opinion.”

De Zerbi admits he had never heard of Joao Pedro when the club lined up the £30million summer transfer from Watford.

“The credit for Joao Pedro is to the club. The recruitment department told me the name of Joao, I didn’t know Joao before he came with us,” he added.

Pedro’s goals in the final 19 minutes were decisive as his side had recovered from Jan Paul Van Hecke’s own goal to lead through Pervis Estupinan and Lewis Dunk only for Lewis Baker’s penalty to put the outcome in some doubt.

Asked how important it was to avoid a replay, De Zerbi said: “Especially if you think how many games we played from the beginning of the season.

“To reach the last 16 of the Europa League and to win today means we have to play three games less and that’s important in this moment if you consider how many players we have .”

This was Stoke head coach Steven Schumacher’s first defeat in his fifth match in charge and he admits he is still learning about his squad.

“Whenever you play against a Premier League team you learn lessons about what you have got,” he said.

“I learned our team has got character. When we conceded a goal just before half-time it could have knocked the wind out of us but it didn’t and we caused Brighton a few problems.

“The difference is in the big moments they punish you.”

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