Anthony Knockaert’s late wonder goal was enough to see Brighton leave Selhurst Park with a valuable three points that have helped the visitor’s distance themselves further from the drop zone.
Derby matches are always unpredictable, and if one were to guess the outcome of this match by judging the form of both teams, Crystal Palace would have emerged as the clear favourite. Yet, Brighton seemed comfortable in the opening moments at Selhurst Park. The visitors were able to notch a rare away goal early on through Glenn Murray, whose strike was his 100th league goal for the Seagulls.
Brighton’s back line stifled the hosts in the first half, and Mat Ryan was rarely called into action as Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy blunted most of the Eagles moves going forward.
In the second half, however, Crystal Palace returned to the pitch with renewed focus which was quickly rewarded with a penalty. Sloppy play from Davy Propper caught Andros Townsend just inside the box, leaving Craig Pawson with no other choice but to award a spot-kick which Luka Milojevic slotted away coolly.
The remainder of the derby would see both teams push for a late winner with Wilfried Zaha’s marauding runs on the left causing a host of problems for Brighton.
However, it was not Zaha that would change the outcome of the match, but rather Anthony Knockaert, whose curling strike silenced Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace, having been caught out in defence, would not have the time to recover from the Frenchman’s late goal despite their efforts.
This was the first time in 35 years that the Seagulls were able to do the double on their rivals, and there will be celebrations across the South Coast as Brighton collect their second consecutive win.
Brighton regaining defensive solidity
Despite flamboyant displays by the likes of Knockaert and Zaha, the outcome of this match was determined by the defensive strength of each team. While James Tomkins and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were brilliant, Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk were even better.
Crystal Palace were afforded numerous corners, and although Brighton have fared poorly this season at defending set pieces, Dunk and Duffy maintained their focus, quickly taming the dangerous crosses that proved a constant threat. The pair provided crucial blocks as well, with Duffy denying Batshuayi what looked to be a certain goal in the first half.
It has come rather late, but Brighton’s centre-backs have regained form at a crucial time for their team. If the Seagulls can continue to maintain the defensive organisation they displayed last week at home, and on Saturday at Selhurst Park, they could continue to pull away from the relegation zone.
Crystal Palace fail to make an impact
Luka Milivojević, Crystal Palace’s engine in midfield, was targeted by Brighton and kept silent for most of the match until his penalty. Of course, Zaha’s importance to this team cannot be exaggerated, but Hughton knew who would pull the strings for the Eagles, and his team attempted to cripple the Serbian in the literal and metaphorical sense.
This rugged pressing by Brighton was something Crystal Palace struggled with throughout the match. Milivojević along with the rest of his teammates in midfield, struggled to provide clear cut chances for their attackers, as many of their passes were cut out.
As a result, Batshuayi, Townsend, and Zaha were not able to make a meaningful impact, the trio failed to come close to finding the back of the net. Hodgson was unable to conjure a plan which would allow his team to escape Hughton’s stranglehold of the midfield, leaving the hosts to continue attempting ineffective tactics.
Hughton finding the winning combination?
Alireza Jahanbakhsh was once again named in the starting lineup along with Knockaert on the opposing wing. It was interesting to watch the Iranian international play, as an injury kept him away from league play for a prolonged period. His skill on the ball and dribbling seemed reminiscent of another player on the pitch, Wilfried Zaha, and while Jahanbakhsh is yet to prove himself, there were plenty of positives to gather from this match.
Knockaert’s form has also improved massively and the Frenchman proved to be more than a match for Patrick Van Aanholt. There was news that Knockaert struggled with depression for much of last season, and it is exciting to see a player once again enjoying his football and making an impact on the pitch. Hughton has noticed the upturn and rewarded him with minutes over Solly March who had been the preferred option on the right wing.
It’s still not clear who the preferred centre forward is as Glenn Murray only played this match due to a warm-up injury to Florin Andone. It will be difficult for Hughton to decide as Murray continues producing in this role despite competition from the likes of Andone and Jurden Locadia. The Englishman’s goal today proved vital and showed that his career is still far from over.
Missed opportunity for Crystal Palace
In Roy Hodgson’s words, this was a “missed opportunity” for the hosts. When you lose against a team with one of the worst away records in the Premier League, “missed opportunity” may be an understatement. Crystal Palace demolished Burnley in their last league match and picked apart Leicester not too long ago; for them to lose at home against rivals who had already bested them once is unacceptable.
Hodgson admitted after the match that the quality in his team is top notch, but that despite that quality they still managed to lose. After pulling off one of the biggest upsets this season over Manchester City and almost doing the same at Anfield, it’s clear there is quality in this Crystal Palace team. Now with the addition of Batshuayi, one could argue there is even more quality. Unfortunately, this failed to show in a match where most had the hosts as favourites.
Perhaps that confidence is what cost Palace the match, but regardless, the Eagles should have performed better. Hughton arrived at Selhurst Park with a plan for a dangerous opponent, whereas Palace seemed unprepared for what was another frantic, hard-fought derby match.