This fixture always has a habit of leaving things behind. With Crystal Palace leading thanks to a brilliant strike from Conor Gallagher – his seventh Premier League goal of the season – a third straight win here for Patrick Vieira’s side looked on the cards. Yet, after salvaging a point against the side they love to beat more than any other earlier in the season, it was an own goal from Joachim Andersen this time that came to Graham Potter’s salvation.
It has now been six matches since Brighton have beaten their bitter rivals, with Potter still having not tasted victory since taking over in May 2019. But that will have at least looked positive after falling behind with 20 minutes remaining.
It was Palace’s second away derby in the space of six days after their spirited victory over Millwall in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Vieira admitting this week that the last-minute equalizer Brighton scored at Selhurst Park in September to deny them three points was always “on our minds”.
He named six players aged 23 or under in his starting line-up – the first Palace manager to select such a young side since goalkeeper Attilio Lombardo in March 1998 – as they tried to end a seven-streak matches without winning a Premier League match on a Friday.
After morale-boosting wins over Brentford and Everton, Brighton entered the game with their best points tally after 19 games in a top-flight season since 1982. They finished that campaign 13th in Division One, which remains the club’s best finish, and hopes are high on the South Coast that this team can set a new standard under Potter.
He made seven changes from the side that edged out West Brom in the Cup, with Leandro Trossard paired with Neal Maupay in attack and a diamond formation in midfield with Adam Lallana at the base. These are always noisy occasions and the decision to play the game on a Friday night certainly added some spice to the proceedings. The large contingent of away fans behind Butland’s goal had a perfect view of the game’s first opener in the 10th minute after a terrible error 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 prevent Trossard who at least partially repaired his mistake against Millwall at the weekend. Palace had surprisingly dominated the midfield when they met earlier in the season, but it was a different story here, with Brighton pinning them down in their own half thanks to their full-backs, Cucurella and Joel Veltman.
Actual goalscoring opportunities remained elusive, however, until VAR intervened in the 35th minute. Will Hughes may consider himself unlucky to have been spotted, but he had his arm around Veltman’s neck when the ball entered the box and referee Robert Jones had no choice but to award the penalty.
After a brief delay when a flare was thrown onto the pitch, Pascal Gross’ kick lacked power and conviction and Butland was able to comfortably make the save. However, the drama was not over. From the resulting corner, Butland grabbed Adam Webster’s header just before Maupay could knock the ball out of his hands and into the net, with VAR again correctly judging he had been fouled on the line.
After such a breathless end to the first half, Palace kept their opponents waiting early in the second but nearly fell three minutes behind when Jakub Moder’s delicious shot from Gross’ reduction hit the top of the crossbar . After spending most of the evening largely as a spectator, Robert Sánchez was then called into action to save Webster after the defender’s attempted clearance from a Conor Gallagher cross headed for goal. It wasn’t long before Butland was back in the thick of it, once again denying Moder after being played by Alexis Mac Allister.
An injury to Lallana then forced Potter to change formation, with the introduction of Tariq Lamptey producing a positive reaction from home fans.
Yet it was Gallagher who stunned them with a fantastic team goal that started with a mazy dribble past Marc Guéhi’s defense and featured touches from half the Palace side. Jeffrey Schlupp kept the ball brilliantly, then found the Chelsea loanee to slam home on the volley.
Brighton pushed forward as they tried to find a way back into play and it finally came as Maupay cleared on the left and Andersen could only deflect the ball past Butland at the near post. A late Maupay header almost won it for Brighton late on, but a draw pretty much felt like a fair result in the end.