Palace keep Seagulls grounded
Brighton 0 Cyrstal Palace 0
After all the bluster and the fanfare, all the reminiscing about the stories behind one of football's strangest rivalries, it was perhaps to be expected that Brighton's long-awaited meeting with Crystal Palace would be a game low on class.
This was a night for huffing and puffing, for scrapping and pressing. It was also a night for Roy Hodgson's Palace to show their obdurate side on the road as they claimed their first points away from home.
It is said that Brighton's nickname of the 'Seagulls' was adopted in response to Palace's 'Eagles', and it is Chris Hughton's side who have soared the higher this season. Solid, tough and hard to crack, they have flown all the way into the top half of the table.
Yet for all the glamour of top flight football, one of the primary attractions of life in the elite for Brighton was another meeting with Palace, the rivals they had not faced since 2013. Hughton's side were the better side here but rarely did they seriously threaten the Palace goal.
After 15 minutes of this harrumphing and harrying, it was the Palace's Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha who fashioned the first clear opportunity of the game.
A long ball caused havoc in the Brighton box, allowing Benteke to prod towards goal, but both the Belgian and then Zaha were thwarted by excellent stops by Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
In response, Lewis Dunk headed straight at Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey from a corner, before midfielder Dale Stephens thrashed a shot high and wide from the edge of the box.
Despite the stodgy start, the match had suddenly become surprisingly open. Zaha, who played his part in the build-up by rating his hatred for Brighton as "11" out of 10, was the most dangerous player on the field, while the home side looked threatening on the counter-attack through wingers Jose Izquierdo and Anthony Knockaert.
The occasion soon reverted to type after the break, when both sides appeared to be in a competition over who could misplace the most basic pass. Among it all, Dunk once again went close from a corner, Ruben Loftus-Cheek had an effort blocked for Palace, and the travelling fans dipped back into their bag of flares.
That was those who had managed to get into the stadium, at least, as pictures emerged a few minutes before half-time showing huge swathes of Palace fans still waiting outside. They wouldn't have missed much if they had stayed out there all evening.(© Daily Telegraph, London)