Maupay's late swoop earns unlikely point for Seagulls against Palace
Crystal Palace 1 Brighton and Hove Albion 1
A cool strike from the penalty spot by Palace guru Wilfried Zaha seemed to have done the trick.
A battling, signature victory for Patrick Vieira? It looked that way – until an injury time sickener by hitherto anonymous Brighton forward Neal Maupay.
What should have been a night to illuminate the balance sheet of the fledgling Eagles’ chief Vieira came and went in the flash of Maupay’s expertly-placed lob to earn a surprise point for the Seagulls.
The Palace rank and file turned the noise up once again at Selhurst Park. Victory was seconds away on a night of tension, where nothing obviously ebbed and flowed about events in south London. It was a spiky, competitive encounter, devoid of many precious moments of finesse – but for Crystal Palace, they will be troubled by the late concession.
Brighton had won four out of their six opening games, turning last season’s frustrations into meaningful scoring statistics.
Nevertheless, when faced with this thorny test, the Seagulls failed to launch – until Maupay rescued them at the bitter end. Predictably, incensed Palace fans raged at their gloating arch-rivals as they made their way down the tunnel. Brighton supporters, conversely, could hardly believe it.
Indeed, their side seemed shorn of the necessary confidence which saw them storm to a fine victory over Leicester City at the weekend. And for a team that was the talk of the Premier League ahead of tonight, it was ultimately a stormy draw and they will improve.
Palace, on the other hand, sat in 15th place ahead of the game and recent form was undeniably skittish: a 3-0 defeat at Liverpool, followed a sumptuous victory over Tottenham by the same score line at home.
As if any added zest was required on these such showdowns between rivals, it was a particularly special night for Zaha. The Palace talisman was making his 400th appearance for the Eagles, and was challenged, pre-match, by Vieira to show a little more consistency. Reputations and sentiment are clearly not a prime factor in the thinking of the coach these days. Zaha will feel the frustration of their pockets being picked more than most at Palace.
The south Londoners started well and Brighton – who lost and drew in last season’s corresponding fixtures - certainly looked diffident and not, on first impressions at least, the sort of side who could potentially go top of the Premier League.
It did, however, take until the 20th minute for Palace to show reasonable evidence of their industry. Odsonne Edouard took aim from 18 yards out but the new Eagles’ forward could only shoot straight at Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez.
Brighton eventually stirred – Leandro Trossard flicking a shot against the side netting on a rare attack. Potter’s plan for the evening appeared to typically one of organisation and containment, with, potentially, the odd waspish thrust going forward.
Zaha had a sight of goal towards the end of the first half but his angled shot lacked conviction, with Adam Lallana also blasting over for the visitors towards the end of a 45 minutes characterised by poor finishing and nervousness within sight of goal from both teams.
The home fans were rescued from that dull state of affairs when Palace were awarded a penalty on the stroke of the whistle. Trossard clumsily nudged Eagles’ effervescent midfielder Conor Gallagher, who had galloped into the penalty area – and referee Andre Mariner had no hesitation in giving the spot kick.
Who else, but Zaha? The man for so many cutting Eagles’ occasions made no mistake, blasting into the corner of the net just when the deadlock looked most unlikely to be broken. Some life belatedly applied to a tetchy affair.
Of course the breakthrough naturally ensured that the onus was now on the south coast outfit to become more positive – and Palace found Brighton in vigorous mood at the start of the second half, causing a few problems via set pieces.
Jordan Ayew really should have settled matters in the 77th minute, when fastening in on goal he could only drive into the side netting. By then the Eagles had brought Christian Benteke on for shot-shy Edouard and Cheikou Kouyate for Luka Milivojevic for an added energy splash.
On that note, Zaha, meanwhile, was causing increasing havoc and Brighton’s defenders struggled with his pace and purpose. How the Crystal Palace fans lapped it all up. Yet it was premature.
Brighton amplified the pressure in the closing stages but found Palace steely – until they failed to deal with a raking long ball which fell neatly into the path of Maupay. All the Frenchman had to do was keep his nerve. A perfect dink over Vicente Guaita was enough to send the travelling fans into orbit.
For Palace, the bigger picture shows that Vieira’s vision is becoming gradually clearer. This, however, was a sore one in the meantime.
Eagles: Guaita, Mitchell, Guehi, Andersen, Ward, McArthur, Milivojevic, Kouyate 70), Gallagher, Zaha, Edouard (Benteke 70), Ayew (Schlupp 85)