Solly March’s first-half goal was enough for Brighton to beat fierce rivals Crystal Palace 1-0 in an entertaining encounter, closing the gap on the European places.
The drama began before a ball was kicked, with Crystal Palace number 1 Vicente Guaita ruled out through injury and replaced by 19-year-old academy goalkeeper Joe Whitworth. But the youngster defended well, although arguably he could have done better for Brighton’s opening goal on 15 minutes.
Crystal Palace had dominated up to that point, quickly snapping their run of three Premier League games without a shot on goal, but a sublime pass from Kaoru Mitoma found March, whose sharp shot grazed Whitworth’s fingertips before finding the bottom corner.
The Eagles should have finished the first half with 10 players, with two late challenges from Cheick Doucoure worthy of a second yellow card. But referee Peter Bankes gave none, adding to Brighton’s frustration in this game, as a goal was disallowed by VAR for an error at Selhurst Park just over a month ago.
Brighton dominated possession for much of the game, briefly interrupted by a power cut early in the second half, though they lacked the lead at times in the final third to find a second.
However, the hard-fought win moves Brighton closer to the European places. They are now two points and two places behind Newcastle in fifth place, and six points out of the Champions League places.
Crystal Palace extend their winless run to 12 games and have scored just four league goals this season, leaving them just three points outside the relegation zone.
More to follow…
Brighton are in FA Cup quarter-final action on Sunday when they receive Grimsby; start 2:15 p.m. They return to the Premier League business after the international break, when they receive brentford on Saturday, April 1; start 3:00 p.m.
crystal Palace they also play Sunday as they travel to the Premier League leaders and Vieira’s former team Arsenal; start 2:00 p.m. After the international break, they receive leicester on Saturday, April 1; start 3:00 p.m.