BY SAM SMITH
Alexis Mac Allister’s late goal denied Crystal Palace successive victories against Brighton and Hove Albion in a match that finally livened up in the final 10 minutes.
Wilfried Zaha’s penalty appeared to have the Eagles set for their first three points since the second game of the season, despite Roy Hodgson’s side rarely pushing forwards.
But the Argentine substitute Mac Allister’s half-volley meant this fixture ended 1-1 once again – just like it did at Selhurst Park last season.
Lewis Dunk was shown a red card for a wild challenge on Gary Cahill in added-time, while Zaha was also involved in a heated exchange with several Brighton players as the Brighton defender headed off the pitch.
Brighton had the better of the opening stages, Adam Lallana curled wide and Yves Bissouma thrashed an effort into the side-netting, but it was Palace who led.
Michy Batshuayi jumped to meet Andros Townsend’s cross but the Belgian was felled by the arm of Tariq Lamptey across his shoulder. It was a harsh penalty award, but it is perhaps evidence that those decisions – such as Everton’s spot-kick at Selhurst Park three weeks ago – even themselves out over the course of a season.
Zaha, who thrives so much in this fixture, calmly sent Mat Ryan the wrong way to score his seventh career goal against the Seagulls – the most the forward has scored against any opponent.
In normal times with the stands full, the Eagles may have been spurred on by a jubilant crowd following the goal. Instead, Brighton were allowed to assert the same control they enjoyed previously. This was not the end-to-end, full-throttle fixture that is has been in previous seasons.
Only when there was the odd cynical tackle or a heated exchange of words – usually involving Zaha – were you reminded that there is a red-hot hatred shared between these two teams. That there were no supporters was to this match’s detriment.
Zaha’s penalty would be one of the few times Palace threatened the visitors, who controlled most of the game. Batshuayi had a second-half goal disallowed for offside, having collected Jairo Riedewald’s pass and run through on goal before lifting an effort into the roof of the net. Had he timed his run slightly better he would have eased a lot of pressure on Palace’s shoulders.
At times it seemed Cahill and Cheikhou Kouyate were comfortable, with Brighton having large amounts of possession in front of Palace’s back four. But the visitors did have opportunities, Vicente Guaita was almost wrong-footed when Neal Maupay turned and had a shot deflect towards goal. Lallana then broke into the Palace area and was denied by an excellent Joel Ward block.
The final 10 minutes were frantic and included almost enough action to fill a whole game. Ward conceded possession 35 yards from goal and Brighton broke away. The ball eventually fell for Mac Allister, whose strike was clean and whistled into Guaita’s corner.
As Brighton pushed for a winner, pinball in the penalty area ended when Dunk’s wild tackle on Cahill saw the Seagulls captain red-carded for the second time at Selhurst Park – with his first coming in 2012. Zaha, largely kept quiet by the impressive Ben White, was also involved in a flare-up but referee Stuart Attwell decided against punishing the 27-year-old.
Star man: Jairo Riedewald. The Dutchman was instrumental in breaking up play and was usually the starting point of Palace’s rare attacks.
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