Palace 3-0 Brighton
1/12/12 - 3.00pm
Glenn Murray came back to slay his ex-side as ten men Albion endured a horrid afternoon at Selhurst Park.
Poyet's men were a man light for the majority of the game, owing to Lewis Dunk's dismissal only 7 minutes in. And typically it was the in-form Murray who managed to convert the Eagles' pressure into a 2-0 lead, before Owen Garvan added a third to round off a comprehensive defeat for the Seagulls.
After a promising, if not adventurous start, the visitors were dealt an almighty blow to their chances as a costly piece of mis-control and then rush of blood to the head from Dunk saw him bring down Yannick Bolasie, who would have been through on goal. The referee had no choice but to show the red card as Albion faced an increasingly up-hill task.
Garvan could have compounded their 7th minute misery with the resulting free-kick, but his curling effort clipped the top of the Albion cross-bar. The depleted Seagulls, with no defensive option on the bench, were forced to switch formation with Andrea Orlandi dropping back to a left-wing back position - and, to their credit, they adapted well initially.
Palace were only able to produce long-range efforts, with the two notable stinging drives from the lively Bolasie well saved by Kuszczak, before Kagisho Dikgacoi wasted their best chance from 8 yards, side-footing the ball straight at the Albion stopper. However, it seemed only a matter of time before the hosts found their opener, and there was an inevitability about who would clinch it.
Bolasie bent a corner into the heart of the six-yard box, where Albion were greeted with the familiar sight of Murray rising at the near-post to glance a header beyond Kuszczak and into the far corner of the net, to break the deadlock and provide a swift kick in the teeth for his former employees.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, and now one-goal deficit, the spirited Seagulls looked to respond immediately as they upped the tempo of their passing. Liam Bridcutt found space on the edge of the box, and curled in a dangerous left-footed cross that Ashley Barnes could only make minimal contact with as his tame header was parried away by Julian Speroni.
Orlandi then departed the pitch with a rib injury, as Poyet was forced to put more round pegs in square holes, as Andrew Crofts entered the field, with Bridcutt dropping in to the left-back position. Almost immediately after the much-needed half-time interval, Albion squandered a gilt-edged opportunity that they simply couldn't afford to miss.
Barnes stole the ball from Wilfried Zaha in the Palace half before putting Craig Mackail-Smith through on goal, but the Seagulls' top scorer could only strike the outside of Speroni's right post with his unconvincing left-footed effort. And they were made to pay for that miss as Murray once again punished the Seagulls up the other end.
The enigmatic striker saw the ball fortuitously land to him in the area after the ball bobbled between Bruno and Gordon Greer; Murray clocked the on-rushing Kuszczak and decided to launch himself to the ground with referee Mick Russell predictably pointing to the spot, from which Murray stroked the ball into the bottom corner to effectively kill off the contest.
Murray had the chance to complete a hat-trick not long after, but his header from Bolasie's cross just cleared the Albion cross-bar. Palace were then awarded another spot-kick. Greer and Murray tangled in the box, with the latter going to the ground, as Russell adjudged the Albion captain to have committed the foul. Garvan despatched the ensuing penalty just beyond the reach of Kuszczak to make it 3.
Mackail-Smith and Crofts saw half-chances go begging late on, as the match closed in on its inevitable conclusion. A tough one to take, but the Seagulls will look to make amends at nearby Charlton next weekend.