This fixture always has a habit of leaving things late. With Crystal Palace leading thanks to a brilliant strike from Conor Gallagher – his seventh Premier League goal of the season – a win here for Patrick Vieira’s side seemed on the cards despite their being very much second best for most of the game. Yet having rescued a point against the team they like to beat more than any other earlier in the season, this time it was an own goal from Joachim Andersen three minutes from time that came to Graham Potter’s salvation.
It is now six matches since Brighton beat their bitter rivals, with Potter still to taste victory since taking over in May 2019. But this will at least have felt positive after they had fallen behind to Gallagher’s brilliant team goal with 20 minutes to play having previously been frustrated by an excellent performance from the Palace goalkeeper, Jack Butland.
“It’s hard to keep going when you’ve had a setback but our reaction was great,” admitted the Brighton manager. “If a Martian comes down and you explain the rules and you look at the stats, then it’s a bit of a head-scratcher because we were so dominant. But that’s the beauty of football.” This was Palace’s second away derby in the space of six days after their feisty victory over Millwall in the FA Cup last Saturday, with Vieira admitting this week that the last-minute equaliser Brighton scored at Selhurst Park in September to deny them three points was still “in our mind”.
He named six players aged 23 or younger in his starting lineup, the first Palace manager to select such a youthful side since the caretaker Attilio Lombardo in March 1998, as the visitors attempted to extend their supremacy in this unlikely rivalry that dates back to the late 1970s. Brighton came into this match with their best points tally after 19 games of a top-flight season since 1982. They ended that campaign 13th in Division One, which remains the club’s highest-ever finish, and hopes are high on the south coast that this team can set a new standard under Potter.
On the evidence of this display, with Brighton dominating their opponents in midfield, they are more than capable of that, even if Potter acknowledged their cutting edge must improve having managed 19 shots but only four on target. Remarkably, Gallagher’s strike after a superb move that featured 22 passes was Palace’s fourth successive shot on target here that has resulted in a goal – a run stretching over three matches.
The sizeable contingent of away supporters behind Butland’s goal had a perfect view of the game’s first opening in the 10th minute after a dreadful mistake from Joel Ward presented the ball to Marc Cucurella. Luckily for the Palace captain, his goalkeeper came to the rescue with an excellent save to deny Leandro Trossard that at least made partial amends for his error against Millwall at the weekend. More goalscoring opportunities remained elusive, however, until the intervention of VAR in the 35th minute. Will Hughes may consider himself unlucky to have been spotted but he did have his arm around Joël Veltman’s neck as the ball came into the area and the referee, Robert Jones, had no option but to award the penalty. After a brief delay when a flare was thrown on to the pitch, the spot kick from Pascal Groß lacked power and conviction and Butland was able to make the save.
Yet the drama was not over. From the resulting corner, Butland grasped Adam Webster’s header just before Neal Maupay was able to knock the ball out of his hands and into the net, with VAR again ruling correctly that he had been fouled on the line. After such a breathless ending to the first half, Palace kept their opponents waiting at the start of the second but almost fell behind three minutes in when Jakub Moder’s delightful flick from Groß’s cutback struck the crossbar. Robert Sánchez was then called into action to save from Webster after the defender’s attempted clearance from a Gallagher cross was heading towards goal.
Soon Butland was back in the thick of things, again denying Moder after he was played in by Alexis Mac Allister. An injury to Adam Lallana then forced Potter into a change of formation, with Tariq Lamptey’s introduction producing a positive reaction from the home fans.
Yet it was Gallagher who stunned them into silence with a fantastic team goal that started with a mazy dribble out of defence from Marc Guéhi. Jeffrey Schlupp did brilliantly to keep the ball and then found the Chelsea loanee to slam home on the volley. Brighton poured forward as they attempted to find a way back into the game and it eventually came when Maupay wriggled free down the left and Andersen could only divert his cross past the unfortunate Butland. “Going back home with a draw is good for us,” said Vieira. “We did the dirty work well and frustrated them a lot.”