AT the end of last week, the city of Newcastle was subjected to strict new local lockdown measures introduced in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus. Perhaps someone should have told the Magpies’ defenders. There was plenty of social distancing on display as Steve Bruce’s side were sliced apart by Brighton in their opening home league game of the season yesterday afternoon, but precious little that was locked down.

With Brighton teenager Tariq Lamptey putting the Newcastle defence to the sword, the Magpies conceded two goals in the opening seven minutes as they crashed to their first defeat of the new campaign.

Neal Maupay scored the Seagulls’ first two goals, converting a penalty after the effervescent Lamptey was brought down before sliding home a neat finish from Leandro Trossard’s cross. Newcastle never looked like getting back into things, and their fate was confirmed when Aaron Connolly curled home a third Brighton goal with seven minutes left.

The visitors fully merited their three-goal success, indeed if anything, Newcastle were fortunate their defeat was not even heavier, with Trossard hitting the post in the second half and Brighton’s players squandering a succession of good positions as they attacked with pace and purpose throughout.

Bruce got his team selection wrong – neither Allan Saint-Maximin nor Andy Carroll made it past the half-time interval – with Newcastle’s inability to cope with Brighton’s wing-back system and slick attacking movement apparent from the off.

The hosts failed to force Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan into a single save, with their poor performance dampening the enthusiasm that had accompanied their opening-day win at West Ham. Perhaps, on reflection, that performance at the London Stadium said more about West Ham’s limitations than Newcastle’s strengths.

Having started the season so impressively against the Hammers, Bruce’s players returned to St James’ Park hoping to secure back-to-back victories in Newcastle’s first two league matches for the first time since 1997. It did not take long, however, for such an eventuality to go out of the window.

The Magpies conceded two goals in the opening seven minutes, and might well have shipped another two before the quarter-hour mark such was the ease with which Brighton’s early attacking sliced them apart.

Lamptey was the architect of the visitors’ explosive start, breaking with pace and purpose down the right and causing Jamal Lewis no end of problems as he made his home debut. The Seagulls’ 19-year-old wing-back was all-but-unplayable in the opening quarter, although Saint-Maximin’s lack of defensive acumen was a contributory factor to Newcastle’s dramatic capitulation.

It took less than 20 minutes for Steve Bruce to send Jeff Hendrick over to the left flank in an attempt to provide some protection for Lewis, but by that stage, the damage had already been done.

Saint-Maximin’s lax defensive approach was evident as early as the third minute as he allowed Lamptey to break into the 18-yard box. Saint-Maximin tried to recover by sticking out a leg, and while he might have made a slight contact on the ball, the angle of his tackle meant he was always likely to concede a penalty if Lamptey went over.

Sure enough, Kevin Friend pointed to the spot – a decision that was upheld by VAR – and with Karl Darlow having been instructed to remain rooted to his line in the wake of Saturday’s penalty drama at Old Trafford, Maupay hammered home his spot-kick.

Four minutes later, and Maupay was celebrating again as the VAR ruled against Newcastle for a second time.

The assistant on the touchline ruled that Trossard has received the ball in an offside position before delivering a low cross that Maupay slid home after getting ahead of Jamaal Lascelles, but replays showed the Brighton forward was in line with Newcastle’s back four. The on-field decision was reversed, leaving Bruce to shake his head ruefully in the technical area.

A shell-shocked Newcastle were all over the place at that stage, and they might well have fallen further behind such was the extent of Brighton’s early dominance.

A lightning Brighton break after a Newcastle free-kick routine broke down ended with Aaron Connolly sending Lamptey through on goal, but Javier Manquillo recovered to produce an excellent sliding challenge that halted the teenager.

Lamptey was back on the ball a couple of minutes later though, surging past Lewis once again to deliver another excellent cross that almost resulted in Federico Fernandez slicing the ball into his own goal.

When Lewis did eventually halt Lamptey midway through the first half, his crude lunging challenge earned him a deserved yellow card, and with Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey also going into the book for first-half hacks, the extent of Newcastle’s collective discomfort was clear.

Their day went from bad to worse when Saint-Maximin hobbled off shortly after the half-hour mark, and Newcastle’s only first-half attack of note came to nothing when Callum Wilson was dispossessed by a sliding tackle as he raced on to Shelvey’s through ball.

The identity of the tackler? Of course, it had to be Lamptey, whose solitary cap so far for England Under-21s might well prove the precursor to a lengthy international career despite Gareth Southgate’s abundance of riches at right-back. The youngster undoubtedly has an extremely bright future,and his departure shortly before the hour mark as a first-half knock finally caught up with him will have been greeted by sighs of relief from the home ranks.

Carroll had already departed by then, and while his replacement, Miguel Almiron, was unable to alter the outcome of the game, his presence at least afforded Newcastle a more balanced look in the second half. He set up the hosts’ best chance just after the hour mark, standing up a cross from the left that Wilson headed over from eight yards.

Brighton remained much the better team though, and after Trossard drilled a 22-yard strike against the base of the left-hand post, Connolly curled home from the corner of the area after being teed up by Maupay.

There was a sting in the tail for the visitors, however, as they finished with ten men. Yves Bissouma caught Lewis with a high boot, and Friend upgraded his initial yellow card to a red after a review.