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On Tuesday night Brighton were thumped 4-0 at Luton and some began to wonder whether Roberto De Zerbi’s magic was starting to wear a little thin. Take this resounding result over Brighton’s arch-rivals as proof those claims couldn’t be any further from the truth.
De Zerbi’s men found themselves 2-0 down inside three minutes on that chastening night at Kenilworth Road. Fast forward to today and, perhaps still a little bruised from that experience, they were ahead just as quickly against Crystal Palace through captain Lewis Dunk.
It only got worse from there for the visitors as De Zerbi’s men relentlessly put them to the sword and triumphed by the same scoreline that they had been on the receiving end of just a few days ago.
Brighton hassled and harried their opponents from the first minute. They played like they understood how much this game means to those who packed inside the Amex Stadium for a hostile afternoon on the south coast.
Palace, by comparison, were tepid and went down without so much as even a whimper. The last Palace boss to suffer defeat at Brighton, Patrick Vieira, lost his job two days later. This thumping and form of four wins in 17 games is unlikely to have done the future prospects of under-fire Roy Hodgson any good.
Lewis Dunk celebrates opening the scoring as Brighton beat rivals Crystal Palace 4-1
Brighton were three up by half time thanks to Jack Hinshelwood and Facundo Buonantte (above)
Joao Pedro rounded off the comfortable victory by netting the fourth four minutes from time
If only his players showed even half as much passion and intensity as his opposite number did on the touchline. Only six minutes had been played and the Italian – always one to wear his heart on his sleeve – found himself booked for encroaching onto the pitch.
Even as his players continued to toy with Palace, De Zerbi was still hopping around his touchline, barking instructions at his players.
The only time he took brief respite in the dugout he could still be seen slapping his thighs in frustration. While the perfectionist in De Zerbi was left only wanting more, Brighton fans were left lapping up every second of a famous derby day victory.
Dunk set the tone early on after ghosting in behind Joachim Andersen to head home from Pascal Gross’ corner to give the hosts a dream start.
From there, it was one-way traffic. With Eberechi Eze absent from the matchday squad and Michael Olise starting on the bench, Palace had little quality at their disposal to mount any sort of reply.
Instead the hosts doubled their advantage when Tariq Lamptey’s cross towards the back post found Jack Hinshelwood who headed home. Goals won’t come much sweeter than that for the 18-year-old academy star who grew up just down the road in Worthing.
But only 86 seconds later, there was even more joy for the hosts in a moment 19-year-old Palace debutant Adam Wharton will want to forget sooner rather than later. Wharton – signed for £22.5million on deadline day – was caught dawdling on the ball from the kick-off by Pascal Gross, who glided past Andersen before unselfishly laying on Facundo Buonanotte, who curled into the far corner past a helpless Dean Henderson.
At that point some in the away end had seen enough and headed for an early exit, the pain of being humiliated inside the first-half against their arch-rivals proving all too much.
Others held up banners calling for change in the Palace hierarchy. The stony expression on Hodgson’s face – red with rage – told the story of the half. The look wasn’t much better from Palace chairman Steve Parish, who was stationed up in the directors box.
Jean-Philippe Mateta’s late consolation was the only thing to smile about for Palace fans
The defeat has heaped more pressure on boss Roy Hodgson after a disappointing derby day
The Palace fans showed their discontent for the current Palace board during the game
There was little change in dominance in the second-half, either. Instead there was more misery for Palace as Olise, introduced at the break in an attempt to conjure up a miracle, trudged off holding his troublesome hamstring only nine minutes into the half. This proved to be a day Hodgson really didn’t want to be beside the seaside after all.
Before long cries of ‘Ole’ from the home end were greeting each successful pass from a player in blue and white. Ironic chants of ‘Roy Hodgson, we want you to stay’ followed from those same supporters.
There was a brief moment of respite for those who travelled south when Andersen’s cross was headed home by Jean-Philippe Mateta with 19 minutes left to play.
But that was merely a momentary blip on an afternoon Brighton fans won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Joao Pedro put the icing on the cake five minutes from time after playing a neat one-two with Danny Welbeck before firing past Henderson.