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Sheffield United 2-5 Brighton & Hove Albion: Joao Pedro hat-trick puts Seagulls into fifth round

Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi believes there is more to come from Joao Pedro after the in-form striker took his tally for the season to 18 with a hat-trick in the 5-2 FA Cup win at Sheffield United.

Pedro, 22, is just one goal behind Manchester City's Erling Haaland following his transfer from Watford in June, and has five goals in his two FA Cup outings.

"I consider Joao Pedro a big potential player and my expectations for Joao are bigger than he is showing," said De Zerbi.

The Brazilian's hat-trick included two penalties, taking his number of successful spot-kicks this season to 10, more than anyone else in the top five leagues around Europe.

Brighton took the lead through Facundo Buonanotte's brilliant opener before the first of Pedro's penalties.

The Blades levelled before the break through Gustavo Hamer and William Osula, but Pedro's second and third goals, plus a late solo effort from Danny Welbeck, clinched the win for Brighton.

"He [Pedro] is playing very well and he is scoring a lot of goals but I think he can reach another higher level," added De Zerbi.

"I push for it because I am working for Brighton, but I am working for my players to improve them and for them to be better."

Brighton have reasons to be excited

The season just keeps getting better for Pedro, whom De Zerbi said he knew nothing about when he joined after two and a half years with Watford.

He is the first Premier League player to reach double figures in penalties in a single campaign since Bruno Fernandes in 2020-21, and showed a cool head when facing Sheffield United debutant Ivo Grbic from 12 yards at Bramall Lane.

Pedro sent the Croatian, signed on Friday from Atletico Madrid, the wrong way on each occasion when opting to go first to his right, then to his left.

And his hat-trick was clinched when he took just enough time to control a pass from James McAtee on the edge of the area before shooting low past Grbic into the bottom corner.

Brighton were untroubled after they had gone back into a two-goal lead and Welbeck underlined their dominance when he shot underneath Grbic from a tight angle deep into stoppage time at the end of the match.

Seventh in the Premier League with more FA Cup and Europa League ties to follow, Brighton seem to have a lot to be excited about in the second half of the season.

Blades collapse after hopeful start

For United, at the foot of the Premier League table with only three wins in all competitions this season, it was ultimately another dispiriting result after they had fought back so well late in the first half.

They had looked a long way off the pace until their first effort on target, in the 44th minute, brought them right back into the tie.

Brighton keeper Bart Verbruggen could only parry Osula's low cross back out to Hamer, who made no mistake at the first time of asking, only to then have to wait for video assistant referee (VAR) to confirm the goal after a check for offside.

Osula, who had been the Blades' liveliest player, then drew the home side level when he headed Jayden Bogle's cross home, with the goal confirmed after another VAR check.

But Bogle's handball when challenging Evan Ferguson in the air gave Pedro the chance to put the visitors ahead again and once he had done so in clinical fashion, Chris Wilder's side looked like the ones who had been second best for much of the first half - aside from a chance for a late consolation when McAtee's shot hit the underside of the bar but did not cross the goalline.

Their focus must now shift to Premier League survival. In two of their next three outings they face fellow strugglers, with a trip to Crystal Palace on Tuesday (20:00 GMT) and to Luton on 10 February, with Aston Villa visiting inbetween (17:30).

Post-match reaction

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder speaking to BBC Sport: "It is what it is, they're through to the next round and we're not.

"We understand the qualities that the manager and the players bring to Brighton. They're a real good footballing side and better teams than us have struggled with the way they play - but for me, looking inwards at our game, some poor goals.

"I know the boy [Facundo Buonanotte] scored a goal with his left peg and it's gone in the top corner but [there were] some real poor goals from our point of view. [I'm] delighted that we gave everything as we always do, delighted that we got ourselves back into the game just before half-time then looking forward to a really positive second half - but then the goal has obviously really knocked us back again."

Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi speaking to BBC Sport: "Today we scored five goals and we are happy for it but we are sad for the two goals we conceded. We can improve in the situation we conceded the goals.

"It's too early to speak about trophies for sure. We have the right attitude, we have the behaviour to keep this level. I don't know if we will win something this season but I know we will fight and do our best in all competitions."