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Christian Benteke’s goal against arch-rivals Brighton will change how he is remembered by Palace fans – the same might be the case for Jean-Philippe Mateta


Mention Christian Benteke’s name in the decades that come and the long goal droughts, the bad misses and the lengthy absences through injury will all be an afterthought. Perhaps even to the extent of them being worth suffering.

Because with a swing of his right foot, the Belgian scored a sensational winning goal against Crystal Palace’s rivals Brighton on Monday night and redefined how his time in South London will be remembered.

Talk of Benteke among Palace fans will always coincide with visions of the striker watching Andros Townsend’s 95th-minute cross drop invitingly into his path, lining up to strike the ball, and thrashing it across goal into the bottom corner of the Brighton net.

The sheer elation that the goal produced might even take away from rational analysis of just how good a finish it was. Previously, Benteke might have skied that chance high into the empty stands – or tried to take a touch and been closed down by the defender.

There is an irony in that a display of composure, confidence and incredible technique so late in such an important game is how Benteke will be viewed. So many times during his Palace career has he been plagued by examples of contrasting qualities.

It is a reminder that football is remembered for its moments and the emotions that those situations produce. Club legends are mostly borne out the significance of singular contributions – not out of many passes or saves they make during a game or a season.

Long forgotten will it be that Brighton were utterly dominant.

The Seagulls had 25 shots to Palace’s three. Roy Hodgson’s side scored their two goals with their only shots on target and with their only touches inside the Brighton penalty area. But that will not matter when this match is discussed in the years that follow.

Ask any fan of either side who watched the corresponding fixture last season and they will recall either the jubilation or the despair of watching Jordan Ayew score the only goal. Nobody will immediately reel off that the Seagulls had almost double the amount of shots, far more possession and a couple of efforts desperately cleared off the goal-line.

Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke (centre left) celebrates with manager Roy Hodgson after the Premier League match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.

“There was one team trying to win the game and one team trying to stay in it. I’m not being critical of Crystal Palace – but that was what it was,” Brighton manager Graham Potter irrationally concluded, throwing a flame into the long-lasting fire that has been central to the rivalry.

That logic fails to recognise that football matches can be won in different ways. It simplifies the sport to a computer and is out of touch with how it is consumed by supporters.

Palace defended superbly, threw their bodies in front of shots, and limited their opponents to few clear-cut chances. Gary Cahill – criticised for his part in recent defeats – was particularly immense.

Ultimately, they were efficient with their own opportunities. Jean-Philippe Mateta brilliantly flicked in Ayew’s cross with Palace’s only shot of the first half.

That goal was a first for the Frenchman in a Palace shirt. It is unfortunate that it will be overshadowed by Benteke’s in the coming years. Mateta could go on to have a Palace career that mirrors the trials and tribulations that Benteke has faced, but he too will be remembered for his goal.

Brighton might have enjoyed three-quarters of the possession, but they did not create enough to seriously claim that they deserved to win. That is what separates their domination from Palace’s ruthlessness.

A succession of Palace errors presented their goal. They were almost the only mistakes made by anyone on the visiting team all evening.

Joel Veltman had not been tracked by Andros Townsend. The Dutchman controlled Tyrick Mitchell’s poor clearance and lashed the ball beyond Vicente Guaita via the post.

The ensuing onslaught on the Eagles goal gave the impression that the match was only heading in the direction of Brighton’s first win over Palace in nearly two years.

Had the tables been turned and Brighton scored a late winner, there might have been a toxic post-mortem shredding apart the South Londoners’ fifth defeat in seven Premier League games. An overly defensive performance would have been lambasted.

Instead of a club-record 32 points after 25 games, Hodgson’s job may have been untenable. That is evidence of the fickle nature of football. But it remains that way because the moments it produces are far better revered than objective analysis.

Gary Cahill. Soldiered on after suffering a bloodied nose and heroically denied several chances with some excellent last-ditched defending.

Something else would have to be particularly special to beat Benteke’s goal to the best moment of the season, let alone the best moment of this game.

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