Roberto De Zerbi believes Evan Ferguson can become a “great player” after the teenage striker’s stunning flicked finish helped boost Brighton’s quest for European qualification.
Republic of Ireland international Ferguson set Albion on course for a 2-0 Premier League success at relegation-threatened Bournemouth by stylishly turning home Kaoru Mitoma’s cross in the 28th minute.
Victory at the Vitality Stadium was sealed by substitute Julio Enciso’s first goal for the club in added time as the sixth-placed Seagulls moved to within four points of the Champions League spots.
Head coach De Zerbi, who allayed fears about knocks suffered by influential midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, is excited about the potential of 18-year-old Ferguson.
“Evan is very young,” said the Italian.
“His best quality is to score and it’s a very important quality but I think he has potential to improve in other parts of the pitch, to play with the other players, to play more for the team.
“In my work I have to make results but I have to help my players to improve, to progress. But I think we can achieve our target with Evan.
“I’m proud for him, I think the same for our scouting in our club. He can become a great player.”
In-form Ferguson’s fourth goal in as many games for club and country was his eighth in all competitions during his breakthrough season on the south coast.
He came into Brighton’s starting XI in place of Danny Welbeck after missing Saturday’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Brentford due to a minor injury.
A big win in Dorset was far from straightforward as Albion were made to sweat by their lowly hosts before 19-year-old Paraguayan Enciso eventually put the result beyond doubt with his milestone strike.
Brighton’s evening was tempered slightly by World Cup winner Mac Allister, who was replaced by Enciso, and Caicedo limping off in the final 17 minutes.
But De Zerbi offered a positive update on the pair.
Asked about Ecuador international Caicedo, he said: “It’s not a big problem. For Alex the same.
“Alex had a small problem at the end of the first half and I didn’t want to take any risks because both are very important and I didn’t want to lose them.”
Bournemouth midfielder Hamed Traore squandered a golden first-half opportunity to equalise before the beaten home side slipped back into the relegation zone on goal difference.
Cherries boss Gary O’Neil said: “We missed some big chances. They converted one very difficult one in the first half.
“Brighton are a good side when you open up spaces. We had a real good go at it.
“We were aggressive against a very good side.
“As a whole, I thought the game was there for us but we didn’t manage to take some really good chances.”