Glenn Murray comes off bench to seal it for Brighton

Seagulls secure FA Cup fourth round trip to play Middlesbrough

Brighton’s Glenn Murray ends up in the back of the net after scoring the winning goal in in the FA Cup third-round tie against Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

Brighton’s Glenn Murray ends up in the back of the net after scoring the winning goal in in the FA Cup third-round tie against Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

 

Brighton 2 Crystal Palace 1

It had to be Glenn Murray, the striker who has straddled the rather unusual divide between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace. This FA Cup third-round tie was level with less than 10 minutes to go when Chris Hughton called for the old-school centre forward, who had spent four years of his long career at Palace.

The stage was set and Murray did not disappoint, although the travelling fans would surely not agree. When Uwe Hünemeier headed a free-kick goalwards, the action appeared to freeze. Murray kept on running and, with the faintest touch from his thigh, he sent Brighton towards a fourth-round tie at Middlesbrough.

It was the night when a Video Assistant Referee was used for the first time in an English club game, and the big question concerned whether Murray also used his arm to bundle the ball home. To Palace’s disgust, VAR said no.

The visitors had offered little until Bakary Sako’s 25-year bolt-from-the-blue – as good a strike as this round of the competition has seen – but Brighton deserved to progress on the balance of play. Dale Stephens had put them in front but this was Murray’s night.

It had certainly felt incongruous, after all the build-up and the emphasis on the heat of this unusual derby, that the home sections of the stadium should be dotted with empty seats. How the travelling Palace fans, crammed in behind one of the goals, enjoyed pointing that out.

Perhaps the Brighton supporters had been disappointed by Chris Hughton’s scratch line-up, which had been advertised in advance. The manager, who retained only three starting players from last Monday’s home draw against Bournemouth, is of the pragmatic school.

He might have tasted FA Cup glory as a player with Tottenham Hotspur but he knows that Premier League survival is everything these days. His was something of a gamble. He would keep his stars in reserve for Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion.

It looked as though the conditions would play their part in the early running. On a cold night there was evidence of the players struggling to keep their footing and, when that happens, it can chip away at their certainty. The Brighton attacker Izzy Brown was distraught when he was forced off after slipping and feeling something twang, while Palace lost Jeff Schlupp shortly afterwards. The pair had been involved in a fifth minute tackle, after which both had needed treatment.

Roy Hodgson’s starting XI boasted the greater degree of familiarity, even if Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke – who were rested altogether – were obvious misses.

Stephens opened the scoring for Brighton midway through the first half as a gaping hole opened up in the Palace defence when Yohan Cabaye stepped out in an attempt to intercept Ezequiel Schelotto’s low pass-back from the right. Cabaye did not get there and, when Stephens collected, he burst into the area and yards of space. The Brighton captain made the most of it, shooting hard and low and, seemingly, through Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal. In a nod to VAR, the referee Andre Marriner had checked the live link via his earpiece. Yes,one of the least controversial goals of the season was allowed to stand.

Brighton were the more coherent and hungrier team in the first half, and they got what joy there was up the right, where Solly March pulled wide and Schelotto pushed up. March failed to get sufficient power or direction on a free header from Gaëtan Bong’s deep cross and then managed to get only a touch goalwards from Schelotto’s low centre. Hennessey’s save was routine, as it had been earlier from a Tomer Hemed header.

It said everything that Hodgson sent his players out early for the second-half – minus Andros Townsend, who he replaced with Sulley Kaikai. They were out so early that they had to wait for about three minutes to see their opponents. The sum total of their efforts before the interval had been a couple of bursts upfield from Sako.

They had to bring more and it was easy to imagine that a few words might have been exchanged in the dressingroom. Spool forward to the hour mark and Hodgson could be seen chuntering on the touchline with his assistant, Ray Lewington. Nothing much had changed, apart from a bit more intensity.

Then Sako turned the tie on its head. What stood out, as well as the power of his finish, was the surprise factor and, when the striker burst through after a slip from Connor Goldson to swell the side-netting, we had a game on our hands.

Back came Brighton. Sam Baldock hit the post and then blew a glorious one-on-one either side of a miss from the otherwise excellent Beram Kayal. Murray would have the last word. – Guardian service

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