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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 21 January 2021

Championship play-offs: Palace frustrated in Brighton stalemate

It’s delicately poised ahead of Monday’s return leg at the Amex Stadium.

Crystal Palace's Joel Ward (left) and Brighton and Hove Albion's Kazenga LuaLua (right) battle for the ball.
Crystal Palace's Joel Ward (left) and Brighton and Hove Albion's Kazenga LuaLua (right) battle for the ball.
Image: Nigel French/EMPICS Sport

CRYSTAL PALACE’S HOPES of promotion to the Premier League suffered a setback as Brighton held on for a 0-0 draw in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Selhurst Park.

Ian Holloway’s side recovered from a poor first half to dominate in the second period, but the Eagles couldn’t break the deadlock in a hard-fought clash between two fierce rivals.

To make matters worse for Palace, leading scorer Glenn Murray, who has 30 goals this term, and talented young midfielder Johnny Williams were both forced off with injuries that look set to rule them out of Monday’s second leg at the Amex Stadium.

After threatening to make a run for automatic promotion, Palace have endured a frustrating time in recent weeks and had to wait until the last day of the season to clinch their play-off place after winning for the first time in 10 matches.

In contrast, Brighton, who finished one place above Palace, came into the game on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run and Gus Poyet’s team took the attack to the hosts in the first half.

Wayne Bridge skipped past Joel Ward and crossed for Leonardo Ulloa six yards out, but the Argentinian striker headed wastefully wide.

Will Buckley’s cross was then met by Dean Hammond in the area and the midfielder crashed a powerful header towards goal, but Julian Speroni made a fine point-blank save.

England winger Wilfried Zaha was making his final home appearance for Palace ahead of his switch to Manchester United at the end of the season.

He was well marshalled by Brighton’s defenders for long periods, although one fine run and cross deserved better than Williams’ tame header.

Palace pressed at a higher tempo as they tried to snatch a winner in the second half, but when Owen Garvan’s cross was met by Danny Gabbidon the defender’s header was kept out by Tomasz Kuszczak, with Andrea Orlandi completing the clearance on the goal-line.

© AFP, 2013

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