28 Nov Palace break away duck thanks to draw with rivals Brighton
Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace picked up their first away point of the season with a goalless draw at bitter rivals Brighton.
Roy Hodgson’s bottom-of-the-table Eagles edged a tight contest at a sold-out Amex Stadium but they were unable to make a breakthrough as their search for a first league goal on the road since April continues.
Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha went closest for Palace when they were thwarted in quick succession by a superb double save from Albion goalkeeper Mat Ryan, while Brighton striker Glenn Murray had a late header blocked on the line by Andros Townsend.
Palace, buoyed by Saturday’s last-gasp victory over Stoke, were given a further boost with record signing Benteke fit enough to make his first start since suffering a knee injury in September.
The Belgium striker, who came on as a substitute in the Eagles’ previous two fixtures, replaced James McArthur in the only change made by manager Hodgson, while Albion boss Chris Hughton brought in Markus Suttner and Jose Izquierdo for Gaetan Bong and Solly March.
After a lacklustre opening with limited goalmouth action, Palace were denied a 15th-minute lead by Ryan’s tremendous reflexes.
The Australia international dived to his right to keep out Benkete’s initial stabbed effort before impressively getting up to stop Zaha’s close-range follow-up.
Brighton responded immediately to nearly falling behind and began to threaten at the other end.
Seagulls defender Lewis Dunk rose highest to meet Pascal Gross’ right-wing corner but his powerful header was too close to Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey.
Colombia winger Izquierdo, recalled after being used as a substitute against Manchester United at the weekend, then saw a stinging drive parried by Hennessey before midfielder Dale Stephens sliced horribly wide from the rebound.
It was the first meeting between the two clubs since Palace secured a 2-0 Championship play-off semi-final victory on the south coast en route to promotion in May 2013.
Ivory Coast international Zaha scored both goals that night and the Eagles had an opportunity early in the second half when the winger was brought down on the edge of the box by Bruno, only for Yohan Cabaye to fire the resultant free-kick straight at Ryan.
Dunk then flicked another Gross corner into the side-netting before his centre-back partner Duffy bravely blocked Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful drive with his head minutes later.
Albion had only won one of their last seven meetings with Palace in all competitions and they almost went ahead when central midfielder Stephens flashed a long-range shot wide of the left post with 18 minutes to play.
Time was running out for a winner although Murray, who has scored three times in this fixture for Palace, nearly came back to haunt his former club.
The Albion striker connected well with Anthony Knockaert’s 83rd-minute corner to send a header towards the bottom right corner but Eagles winger Townsend was on hand to ensure the game ended all square.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson said: “(I’m) satisfied with it, I think it was probably a fair result, both sides had their moments in the game. I’m particularly pleased for us that we could keep a clean sheet because we haven’t had too many of those. I think that we’ve got more in our locker, we showed it in patches. It was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t extend those patches in the game because we had moments in the final third where it was only a correct pass or a correct decision away from giving us a goal chance.”
Brighton boss Chris Hughton said: “I thought we put them under a fair bit of pressure at times and, arguably, in a game that’s probably a fair result, if any team looked like they might just get something, I think it was probably us. But we weren’t at the levels we’ve been at, certainly in the last couple of games. These things happen, you’re playing against good teams and you need to be better in the next one.”