Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson suggested there may have been a case for referring Brighton’s late winner to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after the Eagles crashed out of the FA Cup.
With VAR available for the first time in a competitive match in this country, it was almost inevitable that an incident would arise to place the technology in the spotlight and that duly arrived in the 87th minute.
Palace players protested that the ball had struck former Eagles striker Glenn Murray’s arm as he slid in at the far post. Replays proved inconclusive but Neil Swarbrick, the VAR in west London, did not intervene and the goal stood.
“I can only believe that they [referee Andre Marriner and the VAR] have looked at it – you can see it a few times and it’s a close one. It looked like handball but when you see it again there’s a good chance that it wasn’t. Congratulations to the VAR system,” said Hodgson.
“One can only hope that the VAR system assisted in the matter. Hopefully it has made the right decision. It was always going to happen, there would be a decision which would come up. They decided the goal should stand and I can’t disagree with that.”
Brighton opened the scoring on 25 minutes as skipper Dale Stephens burst into the penalty area after collecting a pass from full-back Ezequiel Schelotto before lashing through Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey at his near post.
Former England manager Hodgson switched to a 4-4-2 formation in the second half in a bid to improve Palace’s fortunes but it was Brighton who came closest to a second as striker Tomer Hemed’s shot on the spin was deflected narrowly past the post.
But the Eagles did, however, fashion a leveller on 69 minutes as Bakary Sako, their liveliest player all evening, hooked the ball away from substitute Davy Propper and rifled a low 25-yard effort beyond Brighton goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Replacement Sam Baldock crashed a shot against the woodwork before blazing over as he bore down on goal following Beram Kayal’s defence-splitting pass.
Brighton did manage to conjure a winner three minutes from time as a lofted Solly March free-kick was headed across goal by German centre-half Uwe Hunemeier and brushed over the line by a skidding Murray at the far post.
Following victory in the M23 derby, Brighton face a trip to Middlesbrough in round four.