It’s hard to imagine how things could have been worse for Roy Hodgson. As the Crystal Palace manager watched his team being dismantled by their bitter rivals and boos from the away team rang in his ears, the former England manager cut a heartbroken figure on the touchline.
After falling behind to Lewis Dunk’s early header, the Premier League’s oldest manager once again feared for his future as Jack Hinshelwood and Facundo Buonanotte scored quick goals to record Brighton’s biggest win in the game since their promotion in 2017.
The angry visiting fans again took aim at chairman Steve Parish, who watched in horror as new signing Adam Wharton gave away the ball for the third goal and Michael Olise sustained another injury minutes after being substituted to replace Eberechi Eze, with captain Marc Guehi on the treatment table.
Some Palace fans made their way towards the exits as the ball landed in the net for the third goal. A banner first seen in the 5-0 defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago has been lifted again. “No shared vision. No structured plan. community out. Get out.” The Palace chairman looked embarrassed as television cameras watched him in the directors’ box. But for Hodgson, who needs no reminding that his predecessor Patrick Vieira was sacked after the 1-0 defeat here in March, this was undoubtedly a new low, although Jean-Philippe Mateta scored a consolation goal before João Pedro sealed the defeat for Roberto De completed Zerbi’s side.
His 76-year-old counterpart had suggested the hamstring injury which forced Eze to limp off the pitch in midweek would cause him to miss the trip to the south coast, with the England midfielder sent for a scan on Friday . But the decision to keep Olise on the bench as a precaution as he returns from injury backfired spectacularly, while new signing Daniel Muñoz struggled after being thrown in at the deep end following his arrival this week.
De Zerbi’s response to the 4-0 defeat to Luton was to make four changes, including a first start since late November for Tariq Lamptey. It was his first foray down the left that led to a corner from which Dunk gave Falmer the freedom to head a pinpoint cross from Pascal Gross into the goal.
The Brighton manager was shown a yellow card after expressing his disappointment when Munoz appeared to play the ball outside the penalty area as the Colombian defender went down and Pedro lurked dangerously.
Hodgson, who watched his side concede within 20 seconds against Sheffield United before winning 3-2 on Tuesday in a game that was a matter of “life or death”, could not hide his frustration as Palace fought against opponents who were clearly right, proving that he played three league games without scoring. There should be a lot more pain.
Despite becoming one of the Premier League’s more established derbies, this game has never been known as a goalfest, with four of the last five ending in 1-1 draws. But Brighton smelled blood and pressed forward in large numbers, looking for a second. They almost made it when Buonanotte outran the giants in Palace’s defense but could only aim his header at Dean Henderson.
Disaster struck for the visitors when Guehi was forced off with a knee injury and found themselves three goals behind within five minutes. Tyrick Mitchell was at fault for a second time as Hinshelwood showed more desire to score from a Lamptey cross, before Wharton – who later replaced Guehi – gifted the ball to Brighton in midfield and Buonanotte finished a long shot after an assist from Gross.
The away support appeared to be at full capacity again at the start of the second half when Olise came into play and greeted Palace’s first corner of the game with wry celebration in the 50th minute. But there was little to smile about as Olise limped off moments later after appearing to suffer another hamstring injury.
Palace could have found a way back into the game after Mateta’s consolation if Olise’s replacement Matheus Franca had taken his chance. But it was Pedro who rounded off an afternoon to savor for the home fans and one to forget for Hodgson, who will now have to wait to see if he has done his final deed as Parish were quickly eliminated after the final whistle.