If Fiorentina v Juventus is Stefano’s game of the season this is indubitably ours.It is not about local bragging rights as Selhurst Park is 50 miles away, but a number of controversial decisions – normally in Palace’s favour over the last 20 years – has created a fierce rivalry.
Last season ‘s home encounter was particularly toxic, so much so that a few stayed away this time and the game was not a sell-out.
The atmosphere was charged but did not get the better of the game as happened last year in a goalless result. In fact it proved an eventful match, one of the most memorable I’ve seen at the Amex.
Palace started last season with seven straight defeats but Roy Hodgson organised them well and they finished a respectable 11th.
This season goal scoring is their problem. Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham are injured and Jordan Ayew from Swansea is not the solution. So they play Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend up front.
Their fullbacks Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a local boy – like Roy Hodgson from Croydon, and a product of their Academy and Dutchman Patrick van Anholt have pace to burn but Chris Hughton set up with two wide men (Jose Izquierdo and Sollymach) to counter their overlapping.
Brighton scored first after a penalty was awarded for a foul on Izquierdo. The video of the highlight afterwards revealed this was a poor decision but the goal machine Glenn Murray struck it home in the corner.
Then Murray was brought down in the box which looked more of penalty but was not given. In the ensuing melee afterward Shaun Duffy got carried way with a threatening head movement on van Arnolt right in front of the referee and was red carded.
For the third game in succession involving Brighton it was 10 v 11.
Brighton only had 9 men on the pitch as Duffy was dismissed and Murray was being treated for a shoulder injury. Murray had to come off and was replaced by Florian Andone.
He then proceeded to score the goal of the season when he ran the length the pitch, similar to the Gareth Bale wonder goal for Real Madrid, held off the challenge of James Tomkins and slotted the ball home. Ten man Brighton were three up at half time.
The second half was something of an anti-climax. Brighton conceded space but Palace could not exploit the extra man. Zaha flattered to deceive.
Chris Hughton won the tactical battle. He has achieved what you have to do in our situation with 7 points in our last 3 games over our peers Leicester City, Huddersfield and Crystal Palace.
Such is the tightness at the bottom Brighton are now mid-table. The general view was that as Fulham can score and most of the teams around them cannot, they will be safe once Ranieri organises the defence but -speaking to a Burnley supporter – he reminded me their next sequence of matches is against Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United and I fear for them as well as Cardiff and Huddersfield.