Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said Wilfried Zaha has improved the mental side of his game after the forward rescued a point against rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.
Zaha smashed in an equaliser from the edge of the box for injury-hit Palace, who toiled for 70 minutes and trailed to Neal Maupay’s fine finish into the top corner shortly after half time.
Ivory Coast winger Zaha – the second-most fouled player in the Premier League this season, behind Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish – was impeded five times at Selhurst Park.
But he kept his composure to score his sixth goal against the Seagulls, who paid for failing to take their chances when on top.
“Wilf is doing extremely well mentally because things happen in the game – taunts from the crowd and little fouls off the ball – which he isn’t allowing to upset him as he might have done before,” said Hodgson, who was marking his 100th match as Palace manager.
Palace’s recovery extended their unbeaten run to four games, as the point moved them above Arsenal into ninth place; Brighton are 13th.
“It was an incredibly gusty performance, full of character and determination because when they took the lead you could not say it was unjust,” said Hodgson.
“But for us to stay in it with all the problems and ending up playing with a central midfielder [James McArthur] at left-back against a very good team like Brighton [was impressive]. Brighton’s performance was as good as any team we’ve seen here at Selhurst Park this season.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter told BBC Sport: “Apart from a five-minute spell, we were really good and controlled the game. Of course, we didn’t get the second goal. We played really well but one action from a top player does you.”
Brighton pay the price again
It was a familiar tale for Brighton – dominating possession, creating chances and failing to win.
They played like the home team in one of the Premier League’s more unusual derbies, which developed in the 1970s because of a rivalry between the two clubs’ managers at the time – Terry Venables at Palace and Alan Mullery at Brighton.
Most of Brighton’s efforts in the first half were from long range, as Palace held them at arm’s length.
Aaron Mooy curled wide from outside the box, while Yves Bissouma and Pascal Gross had efforts from distance saved.
They had a strong penalty appeal when Jairo Riedewald clipped Martin Montoya as the full-back was shooting – but after a long delay for a video assistant referee review, nothing was given.
It was more of the same after the break and Albion’s goal involved some fine football. Bissouma sprayed a ball out right for Leandro Trossard, who volleyed a cross – which Gross diverted into the path of Maupay, with the forward scoring for a third consecutive game.
Davy Propper, Maupay, Bissouma, Trossard and Montoya all had shots saved as Brighton looked to end the game.
“In the Premier League you know if you don’t get a second goal – and the home crowd get behind the team – the environment changes,” said Potter.
They were made to pay when Zaha crashed in the equaliser. With Palace then looking the more likely winners, Potter brought on defenders Shane Duffy and Bernardo for midfielders in the closing stages to see the game out.
“We could always look to improve and do something better but you have to hold your hands up to the quality of the strike,” said Potter.
“They were putting balls into the box and we could have dealt with that better. But we created a lot of opportunities. There is lots to take forwards in a positive way.
“We dealt with it [Palace’s play] OK but not well enough because they scored. We kept them as quiet as we could but not enough.”
Palace snatch a result again
If Brighton seemed to be following a familiar story, so too did Palace.
Only Watford, who are bottom of the table, have scored fewer than Palace’s 15 Premier League goals. The Eagles’ total number of shots this season – 161 – is lower than anybody else in the top flight, and yet they are in the top half.
Hodgson said before kick-off that he was experiencing the worst injury crisis he has had at the club, with six first-team players out. “The team you see tonight is the team we can field,” he said – and added that he hopes to sign players in January.
After a first half in which his side failed to create a single chance, Hodgson brought on James McCarthy at half-time for Riedewald, who had been making his first Premier League start since February 2018.
Their first shot – excluding a Christian Benteke cross which hit the crossbar – did not come until the 68th minute, with Max Meyer missing the target. Yet in the final 22 minutes, they had 11 shots.
Zaha was Brighton’s nemesis again. Luka Milivojevic crossed from the right and James Tomkins headed the ball down to the Ivory Coast international, who controlled the ball and cut on to his left foot before smashing a shot into the near top corner of the net.
From that stage on, Palace were the more likely winners. Benteke – who has scored one goal for Palace since April 2018 – forced three saves from Mat Ryan, while Jordan Ayew shot over from outside the box.
“We got the tactics wrong. We were determined to take the game to them and play on the front foot but it didn’t work because they played around us and we didn’t win the ball back as we thought we might,” said Hodgson.
“We shored things up in the second half by bringing Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew into a deeper position. We gave Brighton the wing space more than the central space and we restricted them largely to shots from distance.”
Man of the match – Davy Propper (Brighton)
‘Palace will need to change’ – analysis
Former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I like what Brighton are doing. A new manager has come in and they’re playing exciting football – but I don’t think that is [ever going to be] Crystal Palace.
“Under Roy Hodgson, they are never going to change. Hodgson is really good at what he does; he sets them up to be hard to beat and they play a lot on the counter-attack.
“But when they lose Wilfried Zaha – and it’s going to happen either in January or the summer – they are going to have to change their style of football because they aren’t going to have Zaha there who can win a game individually.”
Match stats – Hodgson joins Dowie and Warnock club
- Crystal Palace are unbeaten in four Premier League games (W2 D2), after losing four out of five before that.
- Brighton are unbeaten in three Premier League games for the first time since January (W1 D2).
- Roy Hodgson oversaw his 100th game as Crystal Palace manager in all competitions (W37 D24 L39), becoming the third manager to reach the milestone for the club in the 21st century, after Iain Dowie (123 games) and Neil Warnock (146 games).
- Neal Maupay’s opener for Brighton was the first goal Crystal Palace conceded in 329 minutes of Premier League action.
- Maupay has scored in each of his past three Premier League appearances, as many as his previous 13 in the division.
- He is only the second player to score for the Seagulls in three consecutive Premier League games, after Glenn Murray in November 2017.
- Pascal Gross has provided 14 assists in the Premier League for Brighton, twice as many as any other player for the club.
Both sides are in Premier League action on Saturday at 15:00 GMT. Crystal Palace are away to Newcastle, with Brighton hosting Sheffield United.