These are worrying times for Graham Potter. The Brighton manager watched his side suffer the ignominy of a first home defeat in the top flight at the hands of their bitter rivals that leaves them still waiting to record a victory in 2020. Jordan Ayew’s seventh Premier League goal of the campaign was enough to record a famous victory for Crystal Palace as they gained sweet revenge for losing twice against these opponents last season.
The defeat left Brighton still four points clear of the bottom three ahead of Saturday’s afternoon fixtures but after the promise shown in the first half of the season under their new manager, it looks like being another spring filled with anxiety on the south coast. Potter’s side remain the only side in England’s top four divisions not to have won a game this year, with just five draws to show from their eight Premier League outings so far.
Having picked up a valuable point at Sheffield United last week, Shane Duffy’s absence due to a family funeral forced him to revert to a back four as Glenn Murray also made way against his former club. Roy Hodgson named an unchanged side after Palace finally ended their own winless run last week against Newcastle to edge them closer to guaranteed survival for an unprecedented eighth successive season, with the 72-year-old close to agreeing a one-year extension to his contract. After this result, their supporters might be hoping chairman Steve Parish can persuade him to stay on for another decade.
As usual on these occasions, there was a significant police presence outside the ground and there was no shortage of action in the opening exchanges on the pitch despite the early kickoff. A glorious pass from James McArthur which picked out Benteke in the fifth minute could easily have given Palace the perfect start but the striker’s volley was nowhere near the target.
His confidence in front of goal may be almost non-existent these days but the Belgian is always a danger in the air and it was from his header that Cheikhou Kouyate had Palace’s next opportunity, only to be denied by a good save from Mat Ryan. Brighton were slow to find their rhythm but, having dominated large parts of the 1-1 draw between these sides at Selhurst Park back in December, started to do so again.
Neal Maupay’s shot was well saved by Vicente Guaita after a mistake from Wilfried Zaha gifted away possession, with the Ivory Coast forward – most definitely the pantomime villain in these parts – then getting himself into a heated exchange with Ezequiel Schelotto after the Brighton substitute kicked the ball at him after it went out of play. Replays appeared to show Zaha spitting on the ground rather than directly at the Argentinian.
Solly March and Gary Cahill both then spurned excellent chances for their respective sides so an entertaining first half came to an end with no breakthrough but plenty of incident. There was another straight after the restart when Lewis Dunk’s goalbound header was inadvertently cleared by Maupay when the ball struck hum full in the face.
The Frenchman ended his eight-match goal drought last week having previously not scored since the trip to Selhurst Park before Christmas and he was guilty of wasting another excellent opportunity when the ball fell to him following substitute Jairo Riedewald’s slide tackle. Potter’s decision to introduce Murray alongside Maupay up front with 25 minutes to play was an indication of Brighton’s desire to claim all three points but it was Ayew who provided the game’s decisive moment after a brilliant cutback from Benteke.