Palace 3-2 Brighton
Crystal Palace took huge strides towards Premier League safety at the expense of their rivals, Brighton. Roy Hodgson’s men won by the odd goal of five first-half strikes that had Selhurst Park rocking.
After fourteen minutes, Brighton fans were fearing a repeat of the 2002 slaughter as goals from Wilfried Zaha, and James Tomkins saw Palace race into an early lead. Their fears were momentarily alleviated when Glenn Murray slammed home from close range after Lewis Dunk bullied Mamadou Sakho during a Brighton corner.
This setback only caused a slight stumble in the Palace attacking juggernaut, and six minutes later, Zaha was on the end of a delightful Luka Milivojevic cross and headed home. It was Zaha’s third headed goal of his career and his second against Brighton.
Some of the quick passing and interchange between the Palace forwards was too hot for the visitors to handle and it looked like Chris Hughton’s men were going to be on the end of a hiding.
On thirty-four minutes, however. Jose Izquierdo made a fool of Joel Ward before curling into the far bottom corner.
In the second half, the visitors came out and went full throttle for an equaliser. Murray almost scored a carbon copy of the goal he scored for Palace against Bristol City in the promotion season with a back-post volley from a tight angle, but on this occasion that ball missed the far post.
Murray would have another crack at the goal shortly after. Patrick van Aanholt was caught in possession and the ball found its way to the former Palace man at the back stick, but Sakho came to the rescue with a last-ditch block.
Roy Hodgson said after the game that Hennessey had his best performance since he arrived as manager. In the main, this was down to Hennessey commanding his penalty area as he came and caught dangerous looking crosses on several occasions. His biggest save of the match came after he had to punch a cross clear under pressure. The ball fell to Dale Stephens some 25 yards from goal, and his dipping volley pulled the very best from the Wales number one, low away to his right. Joel Ward redeemed his earlier error to react quickest and clear up the seconds.
With mere seconds remaining, a Leonardo Ulloa near post flick on found Murray in the middle of the goal and just three yards out. He couldn’t miss. Expected Goals tells us that this chance is scored 89% of the time, but I guarantee that 0.000001% of the 1% that are missed from there end up heading away from the goal. It was a shocking miss which had me wondering if Murray showed his true colours…
With that miss, the points were sealed for Palace who now sit just one point behind the Seagulls.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha – Why does he only ever turn up against us?
Brighton fans must be utterly sick of the sight of Wilfried Zaha.
Before the match, Zaha said he wanted to beat them and send them back to where ever they come from. Shane Duffy said, "We got this". We all know who was right.
Wilf now has five goals against them and hasn’t scored more than that against any other Club. After his interview with Chris Grierson fully got their backs up in the build-up to the match they would have been praying that he failed to turn up. They must have been throwing up in their mouths after seeing him wheel away in celebration just five minutes into the game.
Our rivals from the South Coast may, therefore, have the biggest shout for saying that “he only ever turns up against us”, but we all know that simply isn’t true. As much as he loves making a mockery of your shitty Club, he doesn’t discriminate. Just look at this thread on Twitter, it collates all of the different Clubs that have said that he only turns up against them – almost every Club he has ever played against is covered.
Zaha’s two goals in this one took him to seven for the season. The same that he managed last season - in ten games fewer! Of course, his 2 assists this season versus 9 last season is way down, but some of the assists he has been robbed of this term is ludicrous. The winner against Watford at Selhurst Park for example. Because the cross took a slight deflection, the assist is taken away. No assist is awarded for a penalty won. Then, of course, Benteke hasn’t been able to hit a barn door this season.
In this one, Brighton had no idea what to do with Zaha – other than kick him when they could.
Is there a single player more vital to their Club than Zaha in the Premier League? Now, people are even starting to suggest that he needs to be on the shortlist for the individual awards at the end of the season. Is he can find a way to get to ten goals this season and fire us to safety; I can’t see why not.
Joel Ward for Aaron Wan-Bissaka
I was probably not alone in being shocked to see Joel Ward’s name on the team sheet instead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s. Supposedly he was back in the team in order to assist with the aerial threat that Brighton possess, but he lost Murray for the first goal [similarly to AWB losing King at Bournemouth last week it should be said] and then looked so far off the pace for the second goal it was bordering on embarrassing.
Ward’s clearance after the Hennessey save from Stephens went some way towards making up for his earlier misdemeanours, but it is fair to say that Aaron’s stock rose more in the eyes of many Palace fans by not appearing in the game.
Wayne Hennessey’s “Best game” under Roy Hodgson
It must be said that Wayne was excellent. The only problem, people will probably remember his performance more for kicking the ball into touch from goal kicks on multiple occasions, more than the 6 crosses he claimed and his brilliant save from Stephens.
What no one seems to have noticed is Hennessey's outburst after making this save from Stephens. He jumped up, pointed straight at Luka and seemed to say something along the lines of "that's twice" while holding up two fingers - clearly not liking the fact that Luka turned his back on the shot, just like he did for the Matic goal in the Manchester United game.
When I walked into the back of the Holmesdale, I couldn’t get further than five feet through the door as there was a mosh pit in front of me as fans bounced around while making a deafening noise. It only got louder and by the point, we were two-nil up, it was fever pitch.
The situation of the game meant that it was extremely nervous in the second half and it dropped off a bit, but it was still largely well up there.
The “Hark Now Hear” at full time was a highlight – as was the fact that, around me at least, people steered largely clear of homophobic slurs, which meant that my lesbian sister could enjoy a game against Brighton more than she normally can.
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Up Next: Watford
Oh, look, another team that Wilfried owns.
A win at Vicarage Road should all but confirm our top-flight status for an unprecedented sixth season in a row. Expect a very noisy away end!
Come on you Palace!