Despite taking a very early lead in this London derby, the Blues slipped to just our second home defeat of the season and the first since September.
All the scoring at Stamford Bridge was over in the first 12 minutes with Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke overturning Cesc Fabregas’s opener, and despite plenty of Chelsea pressure, in the second-half especially, there was no way back. Chances were manufactured against Sam Allardyce's side. Diego Costa, with a header wide, came closest to an equaliser, but a club-record run of 13 straight home wins comes to an end.
With Tottenham winning at Burnley, the lead at the top of the table is cut to seven points but at least we do not have to wait long to make amends, with Manchester City here at the Bridge on Wednesday evening.
Victor Moses was injured so unable to take on his former club, which meant Pedro at right wing-back. Eden Hazard was fit again having missed the Stoke game and with Willian only just back from internationals in South America, Fabregas was given the task of completing the front three. It did not take the Spaniard long to make an impact.
He was initially fouled for a free-kick which Marcos Alonso struck straight at the keeper, but moments later Fabregas’s long pass set Hazard away on his first foray. The Belgian teased the right side of the Palace defence before drilling the ball towards goal. Fabregas had by then joined the attack and his touch was subtle and accurate enough to open the scoring after just five minutes, off the inside of his boot and into the net via the near post.
Against anticipated stubborn opponents it was the ideal start. Chelsea had scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season, and had not lost on any of the previous 22 games when we had done so, but only six minutes later on in this game we were behind.
Palace drew level with a goal of individual quality from Zaha, who faced with Blues defenders around him when he received the ball inside our penalty area, kept it in a tight space before finishing low across Thibaut Courtois.
It only took the Eagles two more minutes to take the lead. Chelsea were caught lacking numbers at the back as our opponents broke. It was two onto two and the Palace attackers played their hand right – Benteke exchanging passes with Zaha before chipping the ball past the exposed Courtois.
Chelsea could well have had a penalty and the chance for a quick equaliser when Pedro’s shot was blocked in front of goal by the arm of Andros Townsend, and Diego Costsa, seeking his 50th Premier League goal, had a shot well saved midway through the half after good work from Hazard and Pedro on the right.
Our leading scorer was later fouled in a good position for David Luiz to have a direct strike on goal but he directed it straight at Wayne Hennessey. It was not the only time that would be the case.
As the first-half clock ticked on, Chelsea began to turn up the pressure. Alonso was unfortunate not have more made of his ball driven across goal which was pushed out by Hennessey, and Hazard had an effort saved at the near post. He was frequently switching sides as Antonio Conte’s men looked to overload Palace down their left-hand flank.
Cesar Azpilicueta, adding numbers to the attack fired not too far over as half-time approached, then Nemanja Matic had a header tipped over and David Luiz planted one straight into the keeper’s hands, but the Blues had the rare experience this season of heading down the Stamford Bridge tunnel at the interval trailing in the game.
With time running out Fabregas was slipped in on the right but had a near-post shot saved and Pedro from an angle shot into the keeper’s arms. Zaha could have made the result absolutely certain in stoppage time but shot over. In the end that extra insurance was not needed for Palace to leave with a repeat of the same scoreline as the season before.
- Match stats:
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Pedro, Kante, Matic (Willian 59) Alonso (Batshuayi 74); Hazard, Diego Costa, Fabregas (Loftus-Cheek 90+7).
Unused subs Begovic, Zouma, Terry, Chalobah.
Scorer Fabregas 5
Booked Diego Costa 50, Cahill 79, David Luiz 83
Palace (4-2-3-1): Hennessey; Ward, Tomkins (Dann h-t) (Delaney 60), Sakho, Schlupp; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Puncheon (c), Zaha, Townsend (Kelly 60), Benteke.
Unused subs Speroni, Quinn, Sako, Kaikai.
Scorers Zaha 9, Benteke 11
Booked Benteke 68, Milivojevic 73
Referee Craig Pawson
- Match report by chelseafc.com
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