BY SAM SMITH
A dubiously-awarded penalty dispatched by former Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray set the tone as the Eagles were beaten 3-1 by arch-rivals Brighton and Hove Albion tonight.
The 35-year-old – who has netted in his last three appearances against the South Londoners – opened the scoring and the hosts led 3-0 at half-time.
Luka Milivojevic pulled one back with a penalty 10 minutes from full-time but it was far too late.
The Eagles should have led on 20 minutes when Andros Townsend headed Patrick van Aanholt’s cross wide.
It was the hosts who went ahead on 24 minutes in controversial circumstances. James McArthur was alleged to have fouled Jose Izquierdo in the penalty area and former Palace marksman Murray clinically converted from the spot.
The drama continued soon after when Shane Duffy was sent off for a headbutt on Van Aanholt. Defender Leon Balogun came on in the aftermath and struck Brighton into a two-goal lead with his first touch.
Even against 10 men, Palace continued to struggle to advance into Brighton’s third. This performance was so far removed from the aggressive, attacking display in the reverse fixture last season which they won 3-2. Wilfried Zaha’s every touch prompted heavy booes from the Amex crowd and he was excellently marked out of the game.
The Eagles’ best chance of the first half came when Milivojevic had a shot cleared off the line.
To compound the Eagles’ disastrous opening 45 minutes, substitute Florin Andone got in behind their back four – forcing a mistake between James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho – and slotted beyond Wayne Hennessey.
Brighton defended extremely deep in the second half and Palace continued to struggle. Max Meyer had a good chance on the hour mark but volleyed wide from Alexander Sorloth’s knockdown.
Palace did pull a goal back when Milivojevic scored from the spot after Zaha had been fouled by Balogun.
But it was merely a consolation for Palace, who face London rivals West Ham on Saturday expecting an immediate reaction.