Three talking points from Brighton's goalless draw with Crystal Palace
One of football’s more unheralded derbies, between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, ended in a stalemate at the Amex.
This was the first Premier League meeting between these two bitter rivals, but pre-match expectations of a high-octane thriller failed to materialise. While the atmosphere was combustible off the pitch, it was a different story on it.
Neither side managed to find the breakthrough and a share of the spoils was a fair reflection of the 90 minutes and a satisfactory outcome for both managers.
A point kept Brighton in the top half of the table after Tuesday night’s fixtures, while Palace consolidated on their last-gasp victory over Stoke City at the weekend.
Here are three talking points…
Away-day relief at last for Palace
At the seventh time of asking, Crystal Palace finally avoided defeat on their travels. They had lost their previous six away fixtures in the Premier League, but boss Roy Hodgson can breathe a sigh of relief as they were rewarded for a disciplined performance against Brighton.
Under Frank de Boer, the Eagles were far too vulnerable defensively and couldn’t stop shipping goals. But it’s been noticeable just how organised and harder to beat they have become with the the former England manager in charge. This was their first clean sheet in the top-flight and not before time.
With just one reversal in their past five matches, Hodgson has stabilised a ship that appeared to be sinking without trace. Any supporter who had given up hope on Palace avoiding the drop would be advised to think again.
Brighton take another small step towards survival
At the start of the campaign, many pundits tipped Brighton to be cannon fodder for the big boys of the Premier League.
However, 14 games in, the Seagulls have shown themselves to be a tough nut to crack. They have been competitive in every fixture they have contested, and although they are by no mean free-scoring, Chris Hughton has side extremely well-drilled.
Brighton have not been on the wrong end of a thrashing yet, which is to their credit. For the three promoted clubs, every point is precious and although on paper the goalless draw against rock-bottom Palace may look like two points dropped, the reality is it represents another step towards safety.
If 40 points is generally accepted to be the magic figure, then the Seagulls are well on their way to reaching that target at their current rate. Tough days will inevitably follow during the winter, but the foundations are in place.
Hodgson needs Christian Benteke to find form
The Netherlands international has been used sparingly by Hodgson since his appointment at Selhurst Park, but he was finally named in a starting XI for the first time since September.
Benteke scored 15 times in the Premier League for Palace last season, as he went some way to justifying his enormous transfer fee from Liverpool. He has yet to find the net this term, but Hodgson will hope that his return to full fitness and match sharpness will see a change in fortune for the physical striker.
Benteke nearly ended his goal drought against Brighton, only to be denied by a superb save from the impressive Matt Ryan. Although the Eagles have the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend in their ranks, the former Liverpool sharpshooter remains the player expected to spearhead their attack.
As mentioned above, Palace’s position is perilous – not hopeless. Their prospects would be helped immeasurably if Benteke could rediscover his best form.