Derby days are exhilarating for anyone associated in the game that day. Whether it is the 22 players on the pitch: the two managers: the backroom staffs or the fans cheering on their respective teams. These are the fixtures that many fans pick out firstly because they are the best to be involved in. That’s certainly how I feel whenever Brighton play Crystal Palace.
Back in June, when the 2012-2013 fixtures were released; my initial move was to seek out the two dates for the Palace games. As a Brighton fan, it was always the home match at the Amex on the top of my priority list to find. The fixtures were confirmed as Saturday 1st December 2012- up at Selhurst Park, and then back at the Amex on Sunday 17th March 2013.
The game in December was nothing more than painful for any Brighton fan such as me. Lewis Dunk dismissed after 8 minutes really killed the match as a spectacle, as it was always going to be difficult to hold on a man down with near enough a full 90 minutes to play (if you include additional time). Two Glenn Murray penalties and a Yannick Bolasie goal gave Palace a 3-0 victory. All in all, that was a day to forget for the seagulls.
But yesterday saw a chance for us to gain revenge on that awful day. 3 months of painful banter with mates who were Palace fans were hopefully going to be silenced by an Albion victory. It all started a bit equally, with Palace midfielder Jonathan Parr having the best opportunity to score early on, if it hadn’t been for a fine Tomasz Kuszczak save. He also denied Matthew Upson from both total embarrassment and anger from Brighton supporters after his misjudged header was clawed away from goal by the Polish keeper.
Then there was a 5 minute window that will be forever in Albion fans’ memories- or certainly in their minds for the next few years. A pinpoint perfect cross by winger Will Buckley was tucked home by January signing, Leo Ulloa. He sent the Albion fans into raptures. A few minutes later, Buckley was again involved when he was brought down by an unfair challenge by Palace central midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi. The two players standing over the ball were Spanish pair Andrea Orlandi and David Lopez. Initially, many anticipated a left footed strike by Orlandi, but David Lopez took the chance on, and his right foot curler flew past the wall; the palace keeper and found the top corner of the next (courtesy of the underside of the Crossbar). Brighton found themselves 2-0 up going into the break.
The second half started just as the first half ended, with a well created Brighton attack ended by a quality finish by Leo Ulloa; his second of the game and 5th in his last 2 matches at the Amex. He rifled the ball home after it was cushioned down perfectly by Orlandi. It could’ve been 4-0 hadn’t it not been for a fine double save by Juliano Speroni. He first denied Leo Ulloa for his second successive hat-trick at the Amex and then saved Buckley’s rebound. Brighton held on comfortably for a 3-0 win and a first rivalry win since Gus Poyet’s reign began back in 2009.
Revenge is bitter sweet.