C Palace 0 – 3 Chelsea
Spirits were high at Selhurst park this morning as Palace aimed to continue there run of 6 games undefeated. The fans were as loud as ever and, as always, club gaffer Alan Pardew gave a reassuring vote of confidence that the eagles could hold off Chelsea’s attack. We face extended injury problems; Bolasie and Wikham both out for two more weeks and star midfielder Yohan Cabaye missing today’s match through suspension. The squad is worryingly thin but still, you would think, capable of at least a home point against a shaky opponent.
Delaney comes back into the defence after a short ankle injury, and captain Mile Jedinak keeps his spot due to Cabaye’s suspended absence. Chung young Lee comes into midfield, and Frazier Campbell starts as a lone striker.
Alan Pardew had admitted in his pre-match interview that due to injuries we were “second favourite”, but from the first ten minutes the case was quite the opposite. We looked far sharper and more dominant than Chelsea, creating a few good chances early on. Our stable midfield earned us set piece after set piece, our preferred way of scoring goals this season. We never look like scoring in open play, something we need to improve as Alan Pardew has previously admitted.
In contrast, Chelsea tend to take their chances whenever presented, and it was one of their first attacks which created the opening goal. 29 minutes in, as the weather gets worse in South London, Damien Delaney lunges in for an interception and skids across the ground like he’s on a water slide. It leaves the inform Diego Costa almost through on goal, turning into the box from the right. Just as the fans behind the goal expect him to smash it past Hennessey’s near post, he smartly squares it back to Oscar, left to tap it in for his easiest goal of the season.
Palace continued there forceful drive just as they had in the first half hour. But five or six set pieces were not enough to win us the equaliser, and the eagles went into the break a goal down.
Half time: C Palace 0 – 1 Chelsea (Costa ,29)
This is where things go from bad from worse for Pardew’s struggling side as Chelsea come out far more determined and eager. The tables begin to turn in the second half and Chelsea are justifying their lead, taking the front foot in the match. Not long in, after endless possession, they get their reward.
60 minutes in, Oscar rolls the ball through to Willian, two players performing with complete class. For the first time in a good while, Palace look vulnerable at the back, the Brazilian international finding himself in yards of space. Our left back Pape Souare contributes massively to our wide attacks, but when it comes to situations like these he needs to be back to defend. In such a good area, Willian can only do one thing, and that’s score. The ball is struck with such power and precision that even Wayne Hennessey can only dive and hope, but by the time he regains his senses the Chelsea players are already celebrating: 2-0.
A last half hour comeback felt like more of a hope than an ambition, as we never really looked like getting into the match. We seemed to lack the final touch brought to the table by Bolasie and Cabaye, which would have led to a far tighter game and probably a full three points. Mile Jedinak simply couldn’t complete the midfield master classes that Cabaye has produced consistently this season. Furthermore, Chung young Lee was barely a replacement for Bolasie, without the natural pace and skill that would have truly strained Chelsea’s defence.
Chelsea didn’t have to wait long to extend their lead yet again. 6 minutes later, 66 minutes in, Willian whips in a combination of cross and shot, gliding along the slippery surface towards the far post and taking Hennessey by surprise. He can only push it weakly into the box, getting as far as Diego Costa, who after an unselfish assist in the first half, decided to knock this one in for himself. And that’s it; no miracle comeback for the eagles, our first loss in 7 games. Ironically, it has been our best feature of the squad which let us down today: the defence. But I still think that had Cabaye, Bolasie and Wikham all been available, it would have been a different story.
To palace fans; don’t worry. We are still comfortably 7th in the league and come up against bottom Aston Villa next week, which should be an easy three points.