Solly March’s first-half strike was enough to see Brighton beat fierce rivals Crystal Palace 1-0 in an entertaining encounter, closing the gap on the European spots.
The drama began before a ball had been kicked, with Crystal Palace No1 Vicente Guaita ruled out through injury, and replaced by 19-year-old academy goalkeeper Joe Whitworth. But the youngster acquitted himself well, although arguably could have done better for Brighton’s opener in the 15th minute.
Crystal Palace had dominated until that point – quickly breaking their duck of three Premier League games without a shot on target – but a sublime Kaoru Mitoma pass found March, whose strong shot grazed the fingertips of Whitworth before finding the bottom corner.
The Eagles should have ended the first half with 10 players, with two late challenges from Cheick Doucoure worthy of a second yellow card. But none were given by referee Peter Bankes, adding to Brighton’s frustration in this fixture, having had a goal wrongly ruled out by VAR at Selhurst Park just over a month ago.
Brighton dominated possession for much of the game – briefly interrupted by a power cut at the start of the second half – although sometimes lacked a cutting edge in the final third to find a second.
Nonetheless, the hard-fought victory sees Brighton close further on the European spots. They are now two points and two places from Newcastle in fifth, and six points from the Champions League places.
Crystal Palace extend their winless run to 12 games and have scored just four league goals this season, leaving them just three points from the relegation zone.
How Brighton edged closer to Europe with victory
Crystal Palace began well at the Amex and finally registered their first shots on target as Odsonne Edouard lashed an effort wide inside two minutes, before nodding just past the post soon after.
Jason Steele – preferred to Robert Sanchez in recent games – then needed to make a smart save as Michael Olise was played through into the 18-yard box. But the Brighton stopper’s wide stance saw him save the eventual shot.
But Brighton gave their rivals a lesson in being clinical as they took the lead in the 15th minute against the run of play. It was a visionary pass from Mitoma that played March through, who saw himself ahead of Marc Guehi. It was then a low, hard shot that beat Whitworth.
- Crystal Palace were without their No1 Vicente Guaita through injury, meaning U23 stopper Joe Whitworth made his senior debut and first ever Premier League start.
- It was one of three changes from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Man City. Luka Milivojevic returned to the bench, alongside Jordan Ayew. Cheick Doucoure and Odsonne Edouard came back into the XI.
- Brighton made two changes from their 2-2 draw with Leeds at the weekend. Adam Webster and Evan Ferguson dropped to the bench with Levi Colwill and Danny Welbeck into the XI.
Crystal Palace did have their chances to equalise. Steele made another fine save, denying Edouard, who was through on goal. Then, Joachim Andersen nodded wide from a superb Olise free-kick.
But Crystal Palace should have ended the half with 10 players. Doucoure – having just returned from a suspension – fouled Joel Veltman in the 27th minute and was shown a yellow card. But late first-half challenges on Moises Caicedo and another on Veltman, while arguably stronger than the initial booking, went unpunished.
It was no surprise to see Doucoure replaced at half-time, with Eberechi Eze on in his place. Brighton tested Whitworth early on after some neat play between Alexis Mac Allister and Pervis Estupinan down the left of the area, but the latter’s cross in was seen away by Whitworth’s outstretched leg.
Brighton: Steele (8), Veltman (7), Colwill (6), Dunk (7), Estupinan (7), Gross (6), Caicedo (7), March (7), Mac Allister (7), Mitoma (7), Welbeck (5).
Subs used: Enciso (6), Ferguson (6), Sarmiento (n/a), Webster (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Whitworth (7), Clyne (6), Andersen (7), Guehi (7), Mitchell (6), Lokonga (7), Doucoure (5), Olise (7), Edouard (7), Schlupp (6), Zaha (6).
Subs used: Eze (7), Ayew (7), Mateta (6), Ahamada (6).
Player of the match: Jason Steele.
After a brief stoppage due to a power cut, the Crystal Palace teenager made another sensational stop. Mac Allister nodded on a corner, but the goalkeeper stuck out a strong hand to see the effort away.
With the last three Premier League encounters finishing 1-1, Crystal Palace pushed for an equaliser and had a glorious chance in the fourth of nine added minutes. A sloppy back pass between Pascal Gross and Steele allowed Eze to nip in, before laying the ball off to Naouirou Ahamada. However, the French youngster lashed his shot wide.
De Zerbi to serve another touchline ban
Roberto De Zerbi will serve another one-match touchline ban after picking up his fourth yellow card of the season against Crystal Palace for remonstrating with the officials when Moises Caicedo was booked.
De Zerbi had previously been carded against Aston Villa, Leicester and Brentford. He was also shown a red card in the tunnel for arguing with Darren England after Brighton’s 1-0 defeat by Fulham last month which landed him a one-game ban.
“I’m disappointed for my yellow card, because I didn’t deserve it,” said De Zerbi.
“The referee has to give a yellow card to (Cheick) Doucoure and not to me. Because they were the same foul and Moises’ was a yellow card, of course, 100 per cent, like Doucoure, but Doucoure with another yellow card was finished in the game.
“If the foul is clear, the rules are clear in football and you have to show personality if you want to stay in the Premier League, as a coach, as a player, as a referee, as a manager.
“Another time in the stands now. It’s not a problem if I like it or not, the problem is I didn’t deserve it, because the mistake was the referee’s, not my mistake.”
On Brighton’s performance, De Zerbi said: “I’m really pleased for the players, for the result, for the fans and for the table.
“We could not close the game and in stoppage time we suffered. But we are Brighton, not Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United or Liverpool. It’s important for us to win in different ways.”
Vieira: I’m concerned about lack of goals
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira: “I’m concerned about scoring goals. When I look at the team performance and looking at the work ethic and our organisation and how the players execute our plan, I was pleased with that.
“The worry I have is that when you create those opportunities but you don’t take them of course, you start to be worried about that. We have to score those goals.
“The players, especially those front players, have to change their mindset. We have to be more aggressive going forward, we have to be more aggressive in the last third. I’m not going to stop putting the pressure on that I’m putting on them at the moment until we get we want.”
On Joe Whitworth’s professional debut, Vieira said: “Joe has the self-belief and the calmness. He showed a lot of good things.
“It’s even more special because he came through the academy.”
FPL stats – Brighton 1-0 Crystal Palace
FPL stats – Brighton vs Crystal Palace
- Goals: March
- Assists: Mitoma
- Bonus Points: Steele (3), Estupinan (2), March, Colwill, Dunk (1)
Opta stats – March matching Rashford and Haaland
- Crystal Palace are the only Premier League side without a league win in 2023 so far (P11 W0 D5 L6) – it’s their longest run without a league win since going 14 in a row without a win between December 2015 and April 2016.
- Brighton have picked up 18 points in the Premier League in 2023 so far (P9 W5 D3 L1) – only Manchester City (25) and Arsenal (23) have won more this calendar year.
- Since the Premier League returned on Boxing Day, only Marcus Rashford (10) and Erling Haaland (8) have scored more non-penalty goals in the competition than Brighton’s Solly March (7). March’s goal came in the 15th minute, with today’s date March 15th.
Brighton are in FA Cup quarter-final action on Sunday when they host Grimsby; kick-off 2.15pm. They return to Premier League business after the international break, when they host Brentford on Saturday April 1; kick-off 3pm.
Crystal Palace also play on Sunday as they travel to Premier League leaders and Vieira’s former side Arsenal; kick-off 2pm. After the international break, they host Leicester on Saturday April 1; kick-off 3pm.