Ten-man Brighton win feisty derby clash after Shane Duffy is sent off for headbuttDecember 5, 2018
Albion supporters were singing songs of the Manchester United legend to mock their Palace rivals, referencing Cantona’s infamous karate kick at Selhurst Park in 1995.
But they were not expecting centre-back Shane Duffy to blow a fuse a la King Eric by headbutting Patrick van Aanholt, after Glenn Murray had netted a penalty.
And gleeful Seagulls fans could never predict that Leon Balogun, sent on in Duffy’s absence, would fire home a finish Cantona would have been proud of to double the lead.
Remarkably, the Nigerian netted with his FIRST touch.
Then, to cap off a mesmerising first half, sub Florin Andone outpaced James Tomkins to hit a third for the ten men deep in stoppage time.
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Even the Romanian’s celebration, conducting Albion’s wild celebrations with his arms, was Cantona-esque.
It was a bonkers first period that would have been dismissed as unrealistic had it cropped up in one of the movies the mercurial Frenchman made after hanging up his boots.
Luka Milivojevic did grab a late consolation penalty for the visitors but Brighton held out.
Chris Hughton had warned his side about keeping a cool head here given the rivalry between the two sides – and will have been incensed by Duffy’s foolishness.
Though the Seagulls boss will have been beaming at how brilliantly the Irishman’s team-mates kept their composure with a man down.
Just why this is considered a derby is unclear to the uninitiated.
It goes back to the 70s, when Alan Mullery and Terry Venables took their fierce rivalry as Spurs team-mates into their respective jobs in the dugouts of both sides.
El Tel took over Palace in June 1976; Mullery was made Albion boss a month later.
They faced off against each other in FIVE feisty encounters that season as they won promotion from the Third Division.
It sparked a competitiveness between the two clubs which grew as they went up the leagues together.
Albion, briefly once known as the Dolphins, even rebranded themselves The Seagulls in response to Palace’s new nickname of Eagles.
In more recent times, Wilfried Zaha has been Albion’s tormentor-in-chief, netting five times in his last eight league games against them.
He was making his 300th appearance here but rarely had a kick.
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A game-changing and controversial moment occurred seven minutes later as James McArthur was adjudged to have taken out Jose Izquierdo in the box.
VAR would likely have ruled it out were it in place as replays seemed to show McArthur getting the ball before Izquierdo ran into him.
Still, Murray was not going to spurn his side’s good fortune and he fired an ice-cool penalty into the roof of the net for his eighth league goal of the season.
Three minutes later, Murray went down in the box under Tomkins challenge for what looked more a spot-kick than the first one.
Ref Kevin Friend did not give it and in the aftermath, Duffy stupidly leant his head aggressively into that of Van Aanholt.
Friend had no choice but to award his first red card of the season – meaning there has been a quartet of dismissals in Brighton’s last four games.
Balogun, signed on a free in the summer, was brought on for Pascal Gross before making the ultimate quick impact.
Solly March saw a corner only half cleared and there was the ex-Mainz man to steer in a brilliant finish from 12 yards with his first kick of the leather.
Palace blew a chance to grab one back soon after when Zaha cut back for Milivojevic, but the Serb’s shot was somehow cleared off the line by Bernardo.
Murray had picked up a suspected shoulder injury when hitting the deck under Tomkins’ challenge ahead of Duffy’s moment of madness.
Hughton was fuming with Andone for taking too long to get his shirt on as the veteran forward waited to come off.
But the Albion boss’ rage turned to ecstasy as the ex-Deportivo man chased down Bernardo’s long punt down the left, ran into the box, cut back in and found the bottom corner.
The strike in the fourth minute of injury time followed up the 25-year-old’s first goal for the club up at Huddersfield on Saturday and compounded Roy Hodgson’s first-half misery.
Palace struggled to exploit the man advantage after the break as Brighton sat deep and narrow – while looking dangerous on the counter.
Zaha’s frustrations boiled over as he was booked for a nasty late tackle on March as the winger burst away from him.
Palace did finally get one back with ten minutes to go when Balogun tripped Zaha in the box and Milivojevic stuck away the spot-kick.
The win moved Brighton into the top half and onto 21 points – meaning Hughton has just 19 more to go on his safety target.
Hodgson though must stew over the fact that his side could not score from open play despite having an extra man for almost an hour.
The 71-year-old was given the freedom of Croydon on Monday evening.
Hughton, who was awarded the freedom of Brighton after winning promotion, could have it expanded to the whole of Sussex off the back of this result.
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