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Opportunity knocked

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CRYSTAL Palace threw away a fantastic opportunity to go second in the Championship last Sunday as they were put to the sword by bitter rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Eagles actually had the better of the first period but were undone in the final five minutes of the half as the hosts scored a quick-fire double; one a brilliant free-kick from David Lopez.

Boss Ian Holloway did not think the Seagulls deserved to be 2-0 up at the break, however.

"How they went in 2-0, on the balance of play, I don't see that," he said. "It was a huge amount of skill [for the second goal]. The goals made them grow, but well done, they scored three, we didn't – simple," he said.

"Their wide men had more joy than ours funnily enough, seeing as though it's normally us that play that way. I didn't think we attacked as well as we can with the team I had out there.

"They scored two quick goals and I'm disappointed how we conceded them. I can't remember any of my lads having a decent game. We lost 3-0 to the team that played better on the day.

"We have to dust ourselves down and look optimistic again."

When asked about the rivalry between the two clubs, Holloway believes it is not just Brighton who Palace have as a rival at this point of the season. With the automatic promotion spot up for grabs before kick-off, a win would have put Palace in the driving seat.

"It's about who can finish the season in those two places," he said. "I don't care about rivalry – we have rivalry with all other teams in this division. I just think it was their day, to be blunt."

The match began at a ferocious pace as expected, but with the ball zipping around on a slick surface, both teams made mistakes.

Palace nearly took the lead after 21 minutes when Bolasie sent in a dangerous free-kick which Matthew Upson headed towards his own goal, but goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak got down brilliantly with a low stop.

And they should have scored two minutes later when Zaha played a great ball into Jonathan Parr, but he shot straight at the keeper when either side of him would have been a goal.

However, the hosts opened the scoring on 43 minutes thanks to Leonardo Ulloa. Will Buckley got down the right and delivered a ball to the back post for the striker to head home via a deflection.

And they doubled their lead just before the break thanks to a stunning free-kick from Lopez.

Kagisho Dikgacoi had committed a foul on Buckley on the edge of the box, leaving the winger to curl the ball over the wall and off the underside of the bar. Julian Speroni had no chance and Brighton's tails were up.

Just minutes into the second period, they grabbed their third after some woeful defending from the Eagles.

Liam Bridcutt delivered a ball to the back post for Orlandi, who headed back across goal to an unmarked Ulloa, and he had all the time in the world to volley low past Speroni.

Brighton could have added a fourth after a quick breakaway from a Palace corner when Ulloa forced Speroni into a save, before the stopper was up quickly to deny Buckley on the rebound.

Parr created Palace's last chance of the game when he sent in a great delivery but Zaha volleyed well wide with a first time effort.

Opportunity knocked


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