Report: Crystal Palace 0 Albion 0
It’s honours even and everything to play for at the Amex on Monday night after a thrilling play-off encounter ended goalless.
In a high-tempo derby game which had everything but a goal, Gus Poyet’s side will be delighted to have kept a clean sheet to take into the second leg.
It’s now ten games unbeaten for the Seagulls, who exuded confidence throughout the game, particularly in a first half where they dominated proceedings.
In a crackling atmosphere, the game started at breakneck speed but it was Albion who settled the better.
Just four minutes into the game a free-kick from David Lopez was swung into the box, Leo Ulloa climbed highest to knock the ball down but as Inigo Calderon scooped his effort over the bar the linesman’s flag was raised.
Moments later Wayne Bridge did well to beat Joel Ward and send in a by-line cross, but Ulloa’s stooping header flashed wide.
The visitors continued to make in-roads down the flanks but it was Palace who created the game’s next chance on 13 minutes when Jonathan Williams’ low 20-yard drive flew wide of Tomasz Kuszczak’s right-hand post.
Albion thought they had taken the lead six minutes later when Will Buckley rampaged down the right and his superb cross was met by a point-blank Dean Hammond header, only for Palace keeper Julian Speroni to somehow keep the effort out.
Liam Bridcutt then made an important block to keep out Kagisho Dikgacoi’s drive but it was another surging run from Buckley which created Albion’s next chance. A delightful sweeping move ended with Orlandi teeing up Hammond but his 12-yard effort drifted wide, evading Ulloa’s head along the way.
It took until the 45th minute for Palace winger Wilfried Zaha to get the better of Bridge and his right-wing cross teed up Owen Garvan, whose effort was well blocked by Hammond.
Palace would have been the more relieved of the two sides as the half-time whistle blew, but with Calderon on a yellow card, Zaha switched flanks and he created the first effort of the second half, drilling a low effort at Kuszczak.
The Man United loanee then sent in a low cross which flashed across the face of the Albion goal, eluding Bridge but, more importantly, Williams.
Hammond again went close with a header, connecting with a David free-kick, and although Speroni was again equal to the effort, the linesman had flagged for offside.
Palace had certainly upped their game after the break and Albion hearts were in mouths on 58 minutes when Danny Gabbidon connected with a free-kick but Kuszczak superbly palmed the goalbound header into the path of Orlandi, who cleared the danger.
Former Seagull Glenn Murray was stretchered off with a serious looking knee injury in the 66th minute, with Aaron Wilbraham taking his place.
The break in play helped upset Palace’s rhythm and Albion responded with two Hammond efforts that were held by Speroni.
Kazenga LuaLua came on for Buckley on 72 minutes and Albion survived another scare soon after when Wilbraham headed the ball into the danger zone. Dikgacoi reacted first but the ball was hacked away by Calderon.
Orlandi was replaced late on by Ashley Barnes but the game played out to a stalemate. Game on Monday night…