Another late, but deserved, equaliser from Brighton cancelled out Conor Gallagher’s 69th-minute opener and saw these two sides play out the second 1-1 draw of the season at the Amex.
Patrick Vieira made one change from the side that beat Millwall 2-1 in the FA Cup third round last Saturday – Odsonne Edouard leading the line in place of Jean-Philippe Mateta.
PALACE MANAGE TO KEEP FIRST-HALF CLEAN SHEET THANKS TO BRILLIANT BUTLAND
After gifting Benik Afobe the opener last weekend, Jack Butland pulled out all the stops to ensure the Eagles went in at half time with the scoreline level.
Making three crucial saves, including a penalty stop to deny Pascal Gross in the 38th minute, there would have been no argument if Vieira’s side found themselves 2-0 down in the first half without the England shotstopper.
They were the masters of their own downfall at times, with Joel Ward’s error allowing Leandro Trossard to skip his way through the defence and force the first piece of brilliance from Butland.
The Eagles had to defend valiantly, making 12 blocks during the first 45.
Butland continued his heroics in the second half, as the 28-year-old’s stubborness kept Brighton at bay. He could do nothing about their late equaliser.
CRYSTAL PALACE OR PRIME BRAZIL?
When you watch Conor Gallagher’s goal back, your mind immediately thinks you have switched to YouTube to reminisce over the Brazil squad of the 1970s or Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team of recent decades.
The 20-pass move which led to Conor Gallagher firing home in front of the jubilant travelling Palace fans was possibly the most composed and elegant passage of play the Eagles had produced since the turn of the century.
While they had to be gritty, determined, and sometimes fortunate to still be in the game at points during the 90 minutes, the goal oozed class and showcased that Palace are more than capable of producing special moments.
However, it does beg the question of why Vieira didn’t decide to go for the jugular straight from the first whistle, as Palace continued to invite pressure throughout the game.
MISS THE AFCON PLAYERS AND THEIR EXPERIENCE
Without Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha, the lack of Premier League experience and nous was clear for all to see.
The midfield trio of Jeffrey Schlupp, Will Hughes and Conor Gallagher was carved open far too many times.
Kouyate is distinguished at sitting in front of the back four and allowing the two players ahead of him to take their time on the ball and express themselves – and that aspect of Palace’s game was sorely missed in the first 65 minutes.
Will Hughes is not a deep-lying playmaker, so to play him just in front of the back four in a game where you have surrendered possession from the first minute did not make sense.
The balance in the middle eventually came when Luka Milivojevic replaced Eze and Palace switched to a 4-1-4-1 when defending.
The Eagles missed someone to be a constant counter-attacking threat, too – a role that Wilfried Zaha has mastered over the years. Michael Olise did his best, and the wand that is his left foot delivered, with spellbinding moments that froze the Brighton defence, but he’s not a player who puts his head down and drives towards the goal.
Eze still looked rusty on the Premier League stage, but his match sharpness will naturally come back over time.
Perhaps most significantly, Palace missed the clever and cunning aspect of Jordan Ayew’s game to win free-kicks when defending their own goal to relieve pressure on the defence and kill the opposition’s attacking momentum.
EDOUARD THROUGH THE MIDDLE
It was a frustrating evening for Odsonne Edouard, as he failed to lead the line and bring Eze and Olise into play. However, he’s not a forward who should be playing with his back to goal – he should be waiting on the last shoulder of the opposition defender and latching on to through balls.
He has shown during his time at Selhurst Park that he is more equipped and a much more potent goal threat when he is coming in from the left, arrowing towards goal and having players making runs ahead of him.
At times, the Eagles were crying out for a focal point to hold the ball up, and Mateta and Christian Benteke added a physical presence when they were introduced.
Edouard is an astute finisher, but he isn’t someone who can play as a lone forward in the Premier League.
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