A SHELL-SHOCKED Steve Bruce admitted Newcastle United suffered “an awful afternoon” as their opening home game of the Premier League season ended in a 3-0 defeat to Brighton.

Neal Maupay scored two goals in the opening seven minutes as Newcastle collapsed from the start at St James’ Park, with Aaron Connolly settling things as he curled home Brighton’s third goal with seven minutes remaining.

Bruce’s side failed to record a single effort on target all afternoon, with their dreadful display standing in marked contrast to the bright, enterprising performance that enabled them to claim a 2-0 win at West Ham eight days earlier.

“When you start like that in any game of football, let alone at this level, then you’re going to get punished,” admitted Bruce. “It’s going to turn into one of those awful afternoons.

“We changed things at half-time, and had a chance for 20 minutes after the restart, but let’s be fair, I’m clutching at straws if I’m thinking that might have made any difference.

“It was a difficult, difficult afternoon, but it was always going to be once you get off to a start like that against a very decent Brighton team. It became one of those really awful afternoons, which we have to accept and try to put right.”

Brighton scored their opening goal from the penalty spot after Allan Saint-Maximin brought down the excellent Tariq Lamptey in the area, although Bruce felt the decision to award a spot-kick was harsh given that Newcastle’s French winger appeared to make contact with the ball.

There was no such mitigation for the concession of a second goal just four minutes later though, with the Magpies defence switching off as Maupay converted Leandro Trossard’s low cross.

“We never gave ourselves a chance,” said Bruce. “I thought the penalty was dubious, it looked really soft and as though Allan played the ball, but then we’ve let them in again with just a basic piece of play. Before we’d even got started, we’d given ourselves a mountain to climb.”

With Mike Ashley watching on from the St James’ Park stands for the first time since January, Newcastle failed to win their opening home Premier League game for the seventh season in a row.

The comprehensive manner of their defeat will raise questions given the presence of all four summer signings on the pitch for the final hour, and Bruce accepts there will be a fair amount of criticism after such a heavy reverse.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” he said. “We’ve just been beaten badly at home, so we have to accept what’s coming.

“That’s the thing about playing for a big club, you can’t go up and down, but unfortunately in the 15 or 16 months I’ve been here, that seems to happen. We’ve gone from having a really decent week where everybody is positive to throwing in a hand grenade like that.

“We have to accept what’s coming. We have to accept we weren’t good enough, and we have to accept that we were sloppy in our defending and the way we started the game. That’s what it is. We’ve got another cup tie in the week (at Morecambe), and then we’ll head off to Spurs next weekend. We’ll have to go back to the basics.”

As if the final result was not bad enough, Newcastle also picked up a couple of injuries that are a cause for concern.

Saint-Maximin only lasted for 33 minutes before he hobbled off with a damaged ankle, and having also picked up a knock in the midweek Carabao Cup win over Blackburn Rovers, the Frenchman will not be involved in Wednesday’s trip to Morecambe.

After struggling against the brilliant Lamptey all afternoon, Jamal Lewis was forced off in the closing stages after a high boot from Yves Bissouma made contact with his face. The Brighton midfielder received a red card for the challenge, but Lewis has been left with some damage to his eye.

“Jamal’s got a nasty eye injury, although we’ll have to see just how bad it is,” said Bruce. “We’re not too concerned about the cut, but he might have an abrasion in his eye so we’ll see how bad he is.

“Allan’s got an ankle issue, so again we’ll have to wait and see what happens with that. It was an early incident, which he never seemed to recover from. He needed to recover today to play against the boy (Lamptey), who is all action.

“To be fair, Allan never really recovered from the ankle knock. In hindsight, maybe I should have taken him off a little bit earlier, but we’ll see how he is.”