EPL

Late Danny Welbeck header earns Brighton a draw at Crystal Palace

By Sports Desk December 21, 2023

Danny Welbeck headed home late in the second half to earn Brighton a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

A lapse by Seagulls goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen led to Jordan Ayew’s nodded opener just before the whistle blew to end an uneventful first half.

Eberechi Eze returned from injury as a second-half substitute and had a few chances to double his side’s advantage, but it was the visitors who dominated late on.

The result, which sees Palace still in search of a second league victory at home, also marked the fifth consecutive Premier League meeting the rivals have drawn 1-1 at Selhurst Park.

There was little excitement to boast in the opening stages, just a Pascal Gross effort dragged wide and a cross from Ayew – back in the starting XI for the first time since his controversial and costly sending-off against Liverpool – was easily plucked out of the air by Verbruggen as the clock ticked past 10 minutes.

Dean Henderson, making his home debut and second start for Palace in place of the injured Sam Johnstone, kept out Simon Adingra, Carlos Baleba’s attempt from the rebound sailing wide before the action largely returned to midfield, save a few runs into the rivals’ respective penalty areas calmly managed by both sides.

Kaoru Mitoma occasionally flashed down the left flank and Jean-Philippe Mateta fired straight at Verbruggen from Tyrick Mitchell’s cross and the hosts had a pair of set pieces, coming closest with the second when Michael Olise’s corner deflected off Ayew inside the six-yard box and into Verbruggen’s arms.

Billy Gilmour and Baleba did well to defend another scramble inside the 18-yard box where Chris Richards, Mateta and Olise all threatened, Jefferson Lerma trying next but unable to put a finishing touch on Olise’s feed, while Gross saw a shot saved.

Just as a goalless first half had begun to feel an inescapable act, Verbruggen, under pressure from Richards, gave the ball away as he tried to loft a pass but instead gifted an opportunity to Olise, who nodded across to Will Hughes, making his 100th Premier League start.

Hughes sent the ball back in the direction of Olise, who finely directed a cross towards the far post for Ayew to head home moments before the half-time whistle blew.

There was an uptick in pace and two second-half substitutions for Roberto De Zerbi, including Welbeck, after the restart, when Joao Pedro skied an effort and Lewis Dunk had a good chance to level soon after, rising highest to connect with Gross’ free-kick, but only able to direct his header inches wide of the far post.

A diving Henderson was able to push Gilmour’s attempt at squaring things up through a crowd, while Jack Hinshelwood was left disappointed after connecting with Gross’ cross but sending it well over the crossbar.

Hodgson introduced Eze who should have doubled his side’s lead but was hesitant and instead denied by Jan Paul van Hecke’s sliding tackle before sending another effort wide.

The Eagles desperately wanted three points but Brighton were in the driver’s seat in the closing stages, and their composure finally paid off when Welbeck beat Richards in an aerial battle and nodded into the top right corner, just evading Henderson’s fingertips.

There were chances for the Seagulls to walk away with all three points, but the hosts – including Henderson, literally, in one instance – clung on for the draw.

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