First XI

The Media Review: Crystal Palace

How the papers and websites reported Wednesday's 1-0 win.

By Nick Szczepanik • 16 March 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Solly March scored for the sixth time in 2023 against Palace.

There seemed to be three main ideas in the Amex press box as the writers finalised their match reports of Albion’s long-awaited victory over Crystal Palace – the team’s quest for Europe, Solly March and his winning goal, and the double success for chairman Tony Bloom after his triumph at the Cheltenham festival earlier in the day.

Neil McLeman went with option three in the Daily Mirror. “Owner Tony Bloom celebrated a famous win double last night as his Brighton beat bitter rivals Crystal Palace after his horse romped to victory at Cheltenham,” he wrote.

“The high-stakes gambler saw Energuemene retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown by 10 lengths in his blue and white colours. The Brighton chairman then crossed the country by helicopter to see Brighton win by a smaller margin to draw level on points with Liverpool in pursuit of the even bigger prize of European football.

“Solly March scored the winner after 15 minutes of a feisty clash on March 15 to show they could stay the distance. But on the Ides of March, this was another stark warning that Palace’s Premier League future is in danger after a 12th consecutive game without a win. Playing like this they won’t stay 12th for long and they face leaders Arsenal on Sunday.

“By contrast, Brighton host League Two Grimsby for the chance to reach the FA Cup semi-finals while they are now only six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with two games in hand.


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Extended PL Highlights: Albion 1 Crystal Palace 0

“Wilf Zaha, Michael Olise and Odsonne Edouard all forced Jason Steele into early saves - the former Celtic striker also missed a free header in the box - but Palace failed to score.

“The hosts were more clinical when Kaoru Mitoma slid a gorgeous ball through for March to net his seventh goal since Christmas just before Gareth Southgate announces his England squad today..”

A similar idea was right up the street of the Cork-based Irish Examiner: “Yesterday must have come close to Brighton owner Tony Bloom’s idea of a perfect day. First he enjoyed success at Cheltenham when his horse Energumene – ridden by County Cork’s Paul Townend - won the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second successive year. Then he rushed back by helicopter in time to watch the Seagulls’ first victory over their fierce rivals from South London in eight meetings.

“A single goal by Solly March after 15 minutes was enough to take Brighton level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool in their quest for a first European place. Palace, in contrast, have still not won a match in 2023, a sequence of 12 games without a victory, and remain only three points above the relegation places.

“Their talisman Wilfried Zaha usually saves his best for this fixture, having scored eight goals against the Seagulls in 14 previous appearances against them. But last night he was subdued in a bruising subplot to the main event by his marker Joel Veltman.”

Ditto Kieran Gill in the Daily Mail: “Not a bad double for Tony Bloom. At 3.30pm, he was at Cheltenham to watch his horse Energumene win the Champion Chase. By 7.30pm, Bloom was back at the Amex Stadium, having flown by helicopter to see the club he owns defeat Crystal Palace in their Premier League grudge match with thanks to Solly March.

“Fate, perhaps, March scoring in the 15th minute on the 15th of March. Yet what the 28-year-old from Eastbourne will celebrate as much as this goal – and boy did he enjoy scoring in front of the away end – is an England call-up if it arrives from Gareth Southgate on Thursday.

“His manager, Roberto De Zerbi, added he was pleased with the win, if not his team's performance: 'We are Brighton. We're not Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United or Liverpool. It's important for us to win in different ways to our style.'

“Unlike Bloom's Energumene, Palace stumbled early in this race and failed to recover. Kaoru Mitoma's through ball found March breaking behind Marc Guehi and he blasted the ball into the bottom corner for 1-0.

“Before the break, the already-cautioned Cheick Doucoure should have received a second yellow. Doucoure dragged down Moises Caicedo to kill an attack and how referee Peter Bankes did not consider this a bookable offence, only he knows. In the season's least surprising substitution, Vieira replaced Doucoure at half time, knowing he was one foul from a red.”

In the Guardian, Ed Aarons led his report with the literary reference, writing “Beware the Ides of March. Solly March that is. On the eve of Gareth Southgate naming his England squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine, the 28-year-old’s seventh goal of the season finally ended Brighton’s four-year wait for a victory against their bitter rivals that leaves Crystal Palace still winless in 2023 and hovering precariously close to the relegation zone.

“From the moment that Patrick Vieira was forced to hand Joe Whitworth his debut in goal, the Palace manager may have suspected it was not going to be his evening. But while the teenager pulled off several excellent saves to keep the visitors in with a fighting chance until the end, there was no hiding the growing chasm between them and Roberto De Zerbi’s side, who now find themselves level on points with Liverpool in sixth place with a game in hand. Having spent 73 days in 12th spot but now only three points clear of the bottom three, Palace clearly have other concerns to deal with.


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Steele: We're excited for the run-in

“There may only be 46 miles separating these rivals but the contrast in the respective moods could not have been more different in the build-up to this match. While Brighton fans have been dreaming of potential European qualification next season under their swashbuckling Italian manager, Palace supporters have been nervously looking over their shoulders for several weeks as the threat of relegation looms larger and larger.

“March spent two years in Palace’s youth academy between the ages of 11 and 13 but he is now approaching 250 appearances for Brighton and has been tipped by De Zerbi for an England call-up when Southgate announces his squad on Thursday. On this evidence, he could do much worse.

“Mitoma was inches away from connecting with March’s cross before Whitworth denied Pervis Estupinan with a save at his near post. A short delay when the stadium lights went out and the players were briefly taken to the side of the pitch by referee Peter Bankes finally gave Palace’s defenders some respite, although it did not last long.

“An outstanding one-handed save from Whitworth to deny Alexis Mac Allister from a corner was the closest Brighton came to adding some deserved gloss to their victory.”

Tom Barclay of The Sun put a subtle twist on the Ides intro. “Beware the strides of March… if you are a Crystal Palace defender, at least,” he wrote. “Fleet-footed Solly March raced past the Eagles backline to open the scoring here and pile more pressure on their boss Patrick Vieira.

“His strike pushed Roberto De Zerbi’s high-fliers level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool and dreaming of an unlikely Champions League charge. But for Vieira’s Palace, the situation could not be more stark with their ten-year stay in the Premier League at serious risk of ending.

“At least his side managed a shot on target here, which is more than they had mustered in their three preceding league games against Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool. In fact Wilfried Zaha - so often Brighton’s nemesis - pulled it off inside the first minute as Jason Steele pushed his effort from an acute angle out for a corner.

“Brighton made a sleepy start and really should have been punished as Palace wasted a hat-trio of quickfire chances. Predictably, it was not long until Vieira’s side were made to pay for their wastefulness.

“Brighton’s attackers have made a habit of haring into space under De Zerbi and they were at it again with only a quarter of an hour played. Kaoru Mitoma was the provider, playing a delicious through ball to the on-rushing March, who had timed his run to perfection. March’s finish was even sweeter as he fired past Whitworth into the far corner to notch his sixth goal of 2023.

“De Zerbi said on Wednesday he felt both March and Lewis Dunk deserved to be called up to their national team. But judging by the way Southgate has continually - and bizarrely - overlooked Dunk since handing the centre-back his one and only cap in 2018, March would do well not to hold his breath.”

Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph went with the quest for Europe. “There are now only six points between Brighton and the top four, and two games in hand for Roberto De Zerbi’s side as they look to chase Tottenham Hotspur,” he wrote. “The league table does not lie in these situations and it is a reality of Brighton’s season that they are now genuine contenders for the Champions League.

“With Solly March continuing to provide goals in attack, Moises Caicedo running matches in midfield and Lewis Dunk as solid as ever at the back, Brighton are only looking up the table, and their fans are now allowing themselves to dream of European adventures. 

“On March 15th it was March, in the 15th minute, who secured this latest win for Brighton. A weird quirk of fate perhaps, but a victory that was no fluke. From the moment March’s shot nestled in the corner of Crystal Palace’s net, this game was under Brighton’s control. If anything, the scoreline flattered a Palace team that started well but faded badly. 

“For Brighton, this victory ended a run of seven matches without a win against their fiercest rivals. For Palace, it further underlined the growing number of problems facing Patrick Vieira.

“Brighton’s only complaints were around their own lack of efficiency in attack, and for a yellow card — and subsequent touchline suspension — for De Zerbi. The Italian had complained too forcefully about refereeing decisions, after Palace’s Cheick Doucoure had somehow avoided a second booking for a lunging foul. These are minor quibbles, though, for a coach and a team that are rising fast and aiming high. 

On the BBC Sport website, Steve Sutcliffe wrote that “while this was far from Brighton at their brilliant best, they still got the job done in a manner that their fans have become accustomed to - by attempting to dominate possession.

“A sign of the Seagulls' progress in recent weeks can be seen by the attitude in the stands, with draws at Leeds and in the reverse fixture against Palace now viewed as dropped points. And had they not had a goal incorrectly ruled out by VAR at Selhurst Park last month, their European hopes would be even greater.

“As it was, De Zerbi was able to rest Adam Webster and Evan Ferguson for the majority of the contest and still see his side eke out a valuable three points courtesy of March, who is enjoying his best goalscoring return in a season. The 28-year-old, who also scored in last weekend's draw at Leeds, provided a useful nudge to Gareth Southgate, who names his latest England squad on Thursday.

"’Every English player wants to work towards playing for their national team,’ March said. "It would be an honour but I have to keep doing what I am doing and let's see what happens’."