Match Review – Crystal Palace 3-2 Brighton

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Oh Brighton and Hove Albion, you sure know how to pick the games to defend like complete and utter clowns in, don’t you?

Derby day against Crystal Palace and what do we go and do? Gift three goals to not just our arch rivals but one of our relegation rivals to boot. This was realistically our last winnable game of the season with five matches all against the top seven to come, yet we defended like schoolboys. Actually, that is an insult to schoolboys.

Everybody knows about the danger that Wilfried Zaha can pose when he isn’t busy auditioning for a role as Tom Daley’s new diving partner. We’d seen it five years ago in that home play off semi final when he scored both goals to send Palace on their way to the Premier League. Yet we didn’t have a clue how to deal with him and that is pathetic, frankly.

The game was just four minutes old when Zaha gave Palace the lead and it was another goal conceded from a set piece. The Albion’s party piece this season has been to leave a man completely free to head home in the box but they contrived to find a new way to allow an opponent to score from a corner this time.

Luka Milivojevic took the corner short to Ruben Loftus-Cheek who returned it to Milivojevic. While this was going on the defence were completely motionless, allowing Milivojevic to roam unchallenged into the box as both Jurgen Locadia and Dale Stephens watched on in awe. Milivojevic then hit a low shot which Maty Ryan could only parry backwards towards Zaha who had the simple task of tapping home from a yard.

Nine minutes later and 1-0 became 2-0. This time, Jose Izquierdo looked busy thinking about what he could post on Instagram once they inconvenience of 90 minutes of football was out of the way and he allowed Yohan Cabaye time and space to earn a corner after a fine block from Beram Kayal. Kayal at least seemed slightly interested by what was going on on the pitch, berating Izquierdo for his lack of effort and he’d be going even more ape a few minutes later.

The corner eventually found its way to Andros Townsend who hit a stonking volley which Ryan turned away and Duffy then blocked the follow up for a second corner. This one came deep to James Tomkins who was completely free and headed it goalward. With Ryan flapping around like a parrot who has been administered a large quantity of cocaine, chaos ensured and eventually Tomkins was able to smash the loose ball through the Australian numbers ones legs and into the back of the net.

Palace simply looked like they wanted it more at this point and that’s completely inexcusable in any game, let alone this one. A cricket score looked like it could’ve been on the cards and thoughts turned to the 5-0 defeat at Selhurst Park 16 years ago. Could it eclipse that? Anything seemed possible with the Albion flidding around at the back.

In Glenn Murray though we had at least one bloke who seemed to grasp the importance of the game and he pulled one back when Lewis Dunk escaped the attentions of Mamadou Sakho to head a Gross corner towards goal where Murray was lurking to volley home just before Wayne Hennesey could claim.

Belatedley, it looked as though we were back in the game. That was until even more defending that would make those two brothers from Rotherham who hosted To Me, To You blush occurred. Gaetan Bong’s half arsed attempt at a clearance rolled all of three yards and straight to the feet of Milivojevic. He had so much time he was able to control the ball, look up, read the entirety of War and Peace and then deliver a cross to the back post where Zaha was arriving having run straight past the oblivious Ezequiel Schelotto to head past Ryan who, seemingly scarred by the two previous goals, was glued to his line for a ball that really should’ve been his. 3-1.

The frenetic first half didn’t end there, either. Kayal’s performance was one of the few bright spots and he linked up well with Locadia who played Izquierdo in for a one-on-one that he bent past Hennesey and into the bottom corner.

The second half was never going to be able to match the first for drama but there were plenty of opportunities for the Albion to salvage something from the game. Kayal delivered a looping cross to Murray which he turned towards goal, the ball falling the wrong side of the post by a matter of milimetres; Murray again was denied by a quite brilliant block by Sakho who showed the sort of quality you can get when you are spending £20m on one individual player and Hennesey made an outrageous double save, palming away an Anthony Knockaert cross and then saving at full stretch through a crowd the follow up volley from Dale Stephens.

There was one final chance in the dying seconds as Palace desperately held on but Murray couldn’t tuck Kayal’s cross in from close range and that was that. Palace had the three points, making it just one win in our last 10 visits to Selhurst Park which, despite the addition of a new bar and some toilets must still rank as one of the worst away ends in the country.

The result probably ensures Palace’s safety given the ease of their run in. As for the Albion, we remain seven points clear of the drop zone with most teams having just the four games left to play. It’s difficult to see where anymore points are going to come from this season, particularly if we keep defending like fully paid cast members from Zippo’s Circus. As long as Southampton and Stoke City don’t pick up too many points, it looks as though we may be survive with what we have.

It’s certainly turning into a disappointing end to the season but at the start of August, we’d all have taken picking up a potential one point from the last eight games if it meant being safe. Safety always was and is the aim and no defeat, even one like this to our arch rivals, should take away from what Chris Hughton and the Albion have achieved so far this season.

Just take off the bright red noses and the facepaint before Spurs on Tuesday, please.

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