Crystal Palace were unable to build on a fantastic away performance at Burnley as they were beaten 2-1 by bitter rivals Brighton at Selhurst Park – a defeat which compounded their woeful home form further.
The Seagulls took the lead through Glenn Murray, who, aside from his first-half strike, gave a masterclass in target man play – Roy Hodgson must hope that Christian Benteke was taking notes from the bench.
Veteran hitman Murray gave Chris Hughton’s side the lead after making no mistake in capitalising on a James Tomkins error, although there was far more to his excellent performance than that.
Drafted in at the last minute after Florin Andone suffered an injury in the warm up, the former Palace striker looked worthy of a start from the off – he dominated Tomkins and Scott Dann, winning 6 aerial duels.
The 35-year-old was essential to the visitors’ game plan – soaking up pressure and hoofing it to the big man up front – as they gave Palace some of their own medicine.
The Eagles have been successful playing in such a way in previous campaigns although the collapse of Benteke’s confidence in front of goal, combined with Hodgson’s less direct style and the arrival of countryman Michy Batshuayi, has seen the Belgian frozen out of the starting XI.
The former Villa striker established himself as one of the Premier League’s most lethal aerial threats prior to arriving at Selhurst Park and looked to be a great signing in the 2016/17 season – the big number 17 chalked up 17 goals in all competitions.
However, he has been a shadow of that player since and has scored just three times. The 28-year-old may not be clinical in front of goal but at least he used to offer a physical presence up front. However, particularly this season, he has been far less effective in the air and his knock-downs are rarely into the path of a teammate.
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Murray, though, did everything Palace fans want from Benteke on Saturday and the Eagles man, who watched most of the tie from the bench, should have been taking tips from his opposite number if he is to ever work his way back into the first team.