A dominant Brighton delivered a devastating blow to their rivals with the Seagulls sinking Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace despite playing most of the match with 10 men.
It is difficult for even the Premier League’s finest teams to travel to the Amex and leave with a positive result. Crystal Palace carried momentum coming into this match, and their defensive capabilities were showcased marvellously against Burnley on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, however, Brighton are a cut above the Clarets.
Hughton and his Seagulls displayed complete control of the match from start to finish. Even when down to 10 men, there seemed to be a great degree of composure and resolve from Brighton and their manager. Indeed, the English manager brought on Leon Balogun shortly after Duffy’s red card, displaying tactical awareness and faith in those tactics as well as his team. That faith was quickly rewarded when the Nigerian international’s volley, his first touch of the game, flew past Wayne Hennessey.
This match stands in contrast to their recent match against Cardiff City where Brighton lost after Dale Stephens received a red card. The team on display today seemed untroubled by the dismissal of one of their key players, proving absolutely ruthless despite the disadvantage. Florin Andone’s 40 yard dash which led to home side’s third goal summed up the fierce determination that ultimately won Brighton the match.
Palace missing a striker
Many Palace fans have been clamouring for the return of Christian Benteke. Injury has kept the striker out of the team, and the Eagles have suffered in his absence.
To suggest that Benteke is the missing piece to Palace’s puzzle is perhaps unfair considering the importance of Zaha; however, there has been a certain haphazardness in the South London team’s attack that hints towards the need for a striker—a focal point in attack.
For much of the match there was no focal point in attack; Alexander Sorloth, arguably the only genuine striker in the team at the moment, was not called upon until the 58th minute of the match. A striker creates space for wingers and opens gaps in the opposing team’s backline, and it’s fairly easy to see that the absence of a striker has limited the effectivity of Palace’s wingers.
There is no clear answer to the problem facing Roy Hodgson, especially when one considers the lack of depth in the current squad. Nevertheless, the problem remains, and it will be interesting to see if Crystal Palace uses the transfer window to bolster their attack.
Hughton’s project bearing fruit
The first game of the season saw Brighton crushed by Javi Gracia’s Hornets. A run of draws and losses shortly after began to raise questions over the Seagull’s ability to defend their place in the Premier League. Now, Brighton sit in 10th place above Wolves, who were rated so highly at the beginning of the season; above Fulham, who were poised to challenge with all their new signings; and above West Ham and Watford, who despite good performances, have also been inconsistent at times.
What Hughton has accomplished with his team is nothing short of remarkable, and the team that looked so disjointed and unsettled at the beginning of the season is now taking shape. Andone, Bissouma, and Bernardo are players who had never been in the Premier League. Hughton wagered these players would not only fit into Brighton’s style of play but also that they would adapt to life in the Premier League—his wager paid off.
December is just starting and there is plenty of football yet to be played this season, but if the Seagulls can maintain the level of consistency they have displayed until this point and couple that with the doggedness displayed today against Crystal Palace, they could easily surprise themselves not to mention the rest of the Premier League.
Hodgson the right fit for Palace?
What Hodgson did for Crystal Palace last season cannot and should not be forgotten or belittled, but it should not blind anyone from the fact that the Eagles are only two places away from the relegation zone.
Hodgson seems to have carried this team as far as he is able to. His defensive tactics, which at times have been impressive, crumbled today, and one has to wonder what there is to salvage from a Palace team that has been stripped away of its defensive capabilities. Unfortunately, Crystal Palace have maintained this rather monotonous brand of football that hasn’t done much for the club or its fans.
Hodgson is not a bad manger, but he is not the manager to carry Crystal Place forward. The kind of manager needed may look something like the manager that got the best of the Eagles today, Chris Hughton, and while it may not be wise to sack Hodgson halfway through the season, the board at Crystal Palace would do well in finding a successor at the end of this season.
Another chapter added to the rivalry
While Crystal Palace vs Brighton might not be an El Clasico or Manchester Derby, the fixture’s importance and prominence has only grown among fans from both teams.
This victory for Brighton marks the Seagull’s first victory over Crystal Palace in a top-flight match since 1981, and although its unclear how many of the fans inside the Amex were aware of this fact, it would not be ridiculous to assume they all knew considering the passion displayed throughout the 90 minutes. With fights erupting before the match and a Brighton fan allegedly being ejected from the Amex for throwing a pie at Wilfried Zaha, the fixture included all the drama that is characteristic of a typical derby.
Although the Seagulls were markedly better than their opponents, the Eagles will be looking to redeem themselves in their next encounter, and if the zeal on display today reappears at Selhurst Park, Brighton and Palace fans may find they are not the only ones interested in what is becoming one of the more entertaining rivalries in the Premier League.