Under-fire Vieira is stung by the strides of March
Super Solly strikes again to pile misery on Palace
NOT a bad double for Tony Bloom. At 3.30pm, he was at Cheltenham to watch his horse Energumene win the Champion Chase, with one punter anonymously placing a £600,000 bet with Brightonbased bookies Star Sports to take home £830,000.
By 7.30pm, Bloom was back at the Amex Stadium to see the club he owns defeat Crystal Palace in their Premier League grudge match, thanks to Solly March’s fine finish. And it transpired that it was Bloom himself who placed the bet, taking his day’s total winnings to more than £1million.
Fate, perhaps, March scoring in the 15th minute on March 15. Yet what the 28-year-old will celebrate as much as this goal — and boy did he enjoy scoring in front of the away end — is an England call-up if it comes his way from Gareth Southgate today.
March cannot do much more than he has been doing. His seventh Premier League goal since Boxing Day leaves Brighton firmly in the hunt for European football.
As for Palace, they ended a run of three straight matches without a shot on target. They were the better side to start with, yet unlike Energumene they slipped out of this race as soon as they stumbled and remain winless in 2023.
‘Joseph Whitworth, he’s one of our own,’ sang Palace’s fans within seconds of kick-off, trying to reassure the teenager in front of them. With Vicente Guaita and Sam Johnstone injured, Patrick Vieira did not have a senior goalkeeper for this trip to the Amex. That saw 19-year-old Whitworth drafted in for his debut at short notice.
Though Vieira had concerns at the back, it is his attack which has been causing him headaches.
Saturday, February 18 at 4.27pm was the last time Palace had managed a shot on target, a header from Eberechi Eze at Brentford. Since then, Palace’s supporters had seen 291 minutes of Premier League football without seeing an opposing goalkeeper tested.
If you don’t shoot, you don’t score, and if you don’t score, you don’t win. Vieira seemed to have drilled that message into his players as, within a minute of this match, Wilfried Zaha forced Jason Steele into a save at his near post. Odsonne Edouard then fluffed a free header before Michael Olise spurned a one-on-one opportunity as Steele saved with his thigh.
Palace soon paid the price. Kaoru Mitoma’s through ball found March breaking behind Marc Guehi and he blasted the ball into the bottom corner for 1-0.
Frustrated, Zaha was getting physical with Brighton’s players and vice-versa. ‘He’s gonna cry in a minute,’ sang the home support, hoping to get under the skin of the visitors’ best player.
Before the break, the alreadycautioned Cheick Doucoure should have received a second yellow, as he dragged down Moises Caicedo to kill an attack. In the least surprising substitution of the season, Vieira replaced Doucoure at half-time, knowing one more foul would lead to a red.
After half-time, Brighton should have doubled their advantage. Pervis Estupinan was left with only Whitworth to beat, but the teenager saved with his legs to keep Palace in this contest. Then, the Amex was plunged into darkness thanks to a power cut. Thousands of supporters tried to help by shining the torches of their mobile phones and, once Bloom had topped up the meter with his winnings from Cheltenham, the game resumed.
When Caicedo was cautioned for a late challenge, Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi went wild, asking how that was deemed a yellow but Doucoure’s wasn’t. He too was booked.
Palace searched for a late leveller, with nine minutes added time due to the power cut, but it was in vain. They remain winless this year, while Brighton can still live in hope of European qualification.
BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Steele 6,5; Veltman 7.5, Dunk 7, Colwill 7, Estupinan 7; Gross 7, Caicedo 7; MARCH 8 (Webster 90+1min), Mac Allister 7 (Sarmiento 88), Mitoma 7.5 (Enciso 79); Welbeck 7 (Ferguson 79).
Scorer: March 15. Booked: Caicedo. Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 7.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-3-3): Whitworth 6; Clyne 6, Andersen 6, Guehi 5.5, Mitchell 6; Lokonga 6, Doucoure 5 (Eze 45, 6), Schlupp 6 (Ahamada 80); Olise 5.5 (Ayew 70, 6), Edouard 5.5 (Mateta 79), Zaha 6.
Booked: Doucoure, Ayew.
Manager: Patrick Vieira 5.5.
Referee: Peter Bankes 6.