Crystal Palace pulled off a stunning win on home soil against Chelsea, with Palace having only beaten Chelsea twice at Selhurst Park since 1982 prior to todays fixture.
It was a battling performance by Crystal Palace, and in the absence of any orthodox strikers they were able to rely on Wilfried Zaha to produce a scintillating display.
Going into this game, Palace had conceded 17, scored none and hence not recorded any points in the Premier League. Considering it was a match up for them against the current Premier League title holders, few would have assumed a positive display, let alone result, for the home team.
Zaha, the man of the match, within three minutes was causing issues. He dribbled within the Chelsea penalty area before firing a shot at goal from a tight angle, with Courtois having to make his presence known by rushing out.
On 11 minutes the game kicked further into life, as Azpilicueta summed up a dismal day for the Blues. Townsend fired it in from the right, and Cabaye caught it, looking to strike. Before he could unleash, Luiz reached his leg out to clear the ball.
The defender was successful in connecting with the ball, but unfortunately it fell right back onto Cabaye. This resulted in the ball ricocheting off the Palace midfielder’s knee, knocking off Azpilicueta, and then heading into the goal with Courtois going the wrong way.
The lead lasted only six and a half minutes however. Fabregas lofted a corner into the penalty area, and Bakayoko used his great leap to header the ball into the turf before it bounced into the back of the net.
Palace were not disheartened though, as proven by Zaha driving down the right of the Chelsea defence within minutes of the goal and firing a shot just wide via a deflection off Cahill.
Zaha continued to be a real menace for Chelsea’s defence, and this constant pressure resulted in him opening his account for the season just before half time. Sakho started the move by aggressively dispossessing Willian, and then feeding the ball to Zaha.
He strode through the Chelsea centre halves with consummate ease, before slotting the ball nonchalantly into the corner. The result was a 2-1 score line heading into half time, with Palace deservedly leading at the break.
Chelsea looked more promising in the second half, and it was evident that they would continue to fight. This determination was shown for instance in the 50th minute, as Fabregas let loose from over 20 yards, with his strike kissing the crossbar on its way over.
The away side’s best chance fell to Musonda, the substitute. He had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 72nd minute following a delightful lofted pass from Fabregas. This left Musonda to chest it down without pressure, however he volleyed it over when he only had Speroni to beat.
Pressure continued to pile on, with Alonso having a header saved acrobatically, and Hazard almost reaching a pass across the face of the goal. Nevertheless Palace were pushing as much, if not more, for a goal, and it was evident that they would not be resting on their laurels.
This pressure built up as it came to the close of the game, with Van Aanholt having a chance to wrap it up but he somehow shot wide. This was after Courtois spilled a long range Townsend effort into the ex-Chelsea defender’s path, however from 6 yards he could not seal the result.
Despite some last minute frantic efforts from both sides to seal points for themselves, the result remained 2-1 and Roy Hodgson can be proud that he managed his team successfully to record a crucial win.
Man of the match:
Zaha was a constant threat against Chelsea – outpacing, outmuscling and overall dominating the defenders. His driving runs pushed Palace out of their comfort zone and towards the Chelsea box, which ultimately resulted in a much improved attacking display for the Eagles compared to their previous fixtures this season.
Written by Theo Atherton-Green.