Crystal Palace finally recorded their first league win of the season after a stunning 2-1 victory over reigning champions Chelsea at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Eagles, without a single point or goal from their opening seven Premier League games, produced a stellar display against Antonio Conte’s men to rejuvenate a club mercilessly hoping for some sort of miraculous revival.
After waiting over ten and a half hours to score their first Premier League goal, Yohan Cabaye’s ricocheted shot fortuitously came off Cesar Azpilicueta to give Palace an 11th-minute lead. The advantage lasted for a mere six minutes before fellow French midfielder Tiémoué Bakayoko equalised for the visitors from a Cesc Fàbregas corner. Palace star man Wilfried Zaha, on his much-anticipated return to the side, restored the South Londoners’ lead just before half time with what proved to be the match winner.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson made some bold changes to his tactical approach and starting line-up as club legend Julián Speroni returned to take the gloves and Wilfried Zaha partnered Andros Townsend up top in a new look front two. Joel Ward surprisingly retained his place at right-back ahead of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who missed the 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford due to being ineligible to face his parent club. That situation would apply to Palace’s other loan signing, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had to sit out against his Stamford Bridge employers for Saturday’s match. Luka Milivojević continued to fill the void in Loftus-Cheek’s absence, as he formed a three-man central midfield alongside Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur. Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt linked up down the left with Mamadou Sakho and captain Scott Dann sitting in central defence.
Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham remained longer-term absentees in the forward positions as well as the notable absences of number one goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and centre-back James Tomkins amongst the many in Palace’s injury crisis this season. Jaïro Riedewald was once again left on the bench alongside the somewhat disgraced captain Jason Puncheon. Both would enter the field alongside Fosu-Mensah in the closing stages of the game.
West London rivals Chelsea were also suffering from a mini-crisis of injuries themselves. Star players N’Golo Kante and Álvaro Morata were missing along with the struggle for full match fitness for many of their players after a decisive international break. The Blues’ luck got no better during the match at Selhurst Park either, as former Palace youth graduate Victor Moses succumbed to a hamstring injury midway through the first-half to a warming reception from both sets of fans. After the game, Antonio Conte said Chelsea were suffering from an ’emergency’ situation with their injuries.
They next face three home matches in the space of ten days as AS Roma, Watford and Everton all visit Stamford Bridge in three separate competitions. Worryingly for Conte, his Chelsea side were second best to every ball in the defeat at Selhurst, to which the Italian manager later admitted himself.
The unlikely victory for Palace ends their nightmare start to the season that saw them become the worst ever side to begin a campaign without scoring a goal. Roy Hodgson’s men can be proud of their display and will take great confidence from beating last season’s champions once again in the league. They next travel to St. James’ Park on Saturday to face Rafael Benítez’s Newcastle United side.
Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel and something positive to write about in our Match Day Reports section here at Selhurst Sound! It can only be onwards and upwards from here now, Palace fans! Saturday felt like us again. Selhurst was rocking, old heroes returned, that unique togetherness between playing staff and crowd was back. Although a lot needs to be done to reverse this horror show of a season, let’s erase those thoughts and concentrate on getting Palace back to being Palace. Our season starts here… Eagles!