Chelsea vs Crystal Palace match report: Jose Mourinho's side stunned despite Radamel Falcao goal, Sako and Ward on target for Palace

Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2

Michael Calvin
Saturday 29 August 2015 21:35
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This sort of thing is not meant to happen. Crystal Palace are supposed to reside quietly below stairs in the Premier League. They are expected to tug their forelock and be suitably grateful when the likes of Chelsea offer them a young player to fatten for the market.

They did not need the donation of Patrick Bamford’s services for the day, denied by one of those loan deals weighted to give Chelsea the sort of marginal advantage rich clubs expect. They have a manager, in Alan Pardew, who has the measure of Jose Mourinho.

Their post-match embrace was revealingly warm, and radiated professional respect. Victory, only the second by a visiting team in 100 League games at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho, was richly deserved and a resonant statement of intent.

Much will be made of the eight-point gap which already separates the champions from Manchester City. Volumes will be read into their lack of purpose, and their pallid start to a season already littered with avoidable problems.

But let’s dwell on Palace, for a moment. They deserve their prominence. Reward for their resilience in regaining the lead almost immediately through Joel Ward, once Radamel Falcao had equalised Bakary Sako’s opening goal, conformed to a hugely impressive yet easily overlooked pattern.

Diego Costa (R) vies for the ball against Crystal Palace's Chung-yong Lee

Palace have won eight of their 10 away matches in the Premier League under Pardew, who detected, from midweek, that his gameplan was underpinned by something less tangible but infinitely powerful, a unifying perception of belief.

Sako is a free transfer signing of immense physical presence and unrealised ambition. “We sensed he was a Crystal Palace type, and he has proved us right,” Pardew reflected. “He has got a great pass and threatens the goal. We didn’t do that from wide areas last season.”

Their defence, based upon the yeoman qualities of old-fashioned centre-halves, Scott Dann and Damien Delaney, is outstanding. “It wasn’t a sit-in, 11-men behind the ball game,” Delaney reasoned. “That was full throttle for 90 minutes.”

Palace’s threat from wide areas intensified with the introduction of Yannick Bolasie, who returned from compassionate leave, following the death of his father, as a second-half substitute. Jason Puncheon’s previously unremarked quality is generating suggestions he could force his way into the England squad.

No team has won more points than Palace away from home in 2015, 25, but statistical circumstance – this was also Mourinho’s 200th game in charge in the Premier League – was of marginal relevance. As Pardew said: “ It was one of the best performances I’ve seen in terms of composure.”

Chelsea’s staccato season is tinged with rancour and unease. Their defence lacks authority without John Terry, who became a better player as he sat, resplendent in brown cashmere, at the back of the technical area. They have not kept a clean sheet for seven League games.

Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, symbols of last season’s title win, are struggling to wield even a modicum of influence in front of the back four. Diego Costa’s perpetual audition for a part in the next Mad Max movie perversely highlights the lack of bite in attack.

Crystal Palace's Bakary Sako celebrates with team mate Yoham Cabaye after scoring

The next three days will test the credibility of Mourinho’s insistence he has no intention of suddenly accelerating his recruitment plans. “I am not going to say I want this, this and that,” he argued. “I am not going to try this, this and that. We – me and the players – have to do better.”

Mourinho’s frustration with his team’s lack of drive and intensity cannot be purged immediately since he admitted the international break will leave him “working with four players” for the next fortnight.

Palace should have taken the lead in the 28th minute. Wilfried Zaha’s brilliant turn, steeply angled run and composed pass into the path of Yohan Cabaye, whose shot lacked power and conviction, allowing the Chelsea goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, to throw himself to his left to save. They did so in the 65th minute, when Branislav Ivanovic was exposed by Pape Souaré’s surge, and calm pass into the path of Bolasie. He found Sako, who required no further invitation to thump it past Courtois with a left foot shot.

Chelsea equalised 14 minutes later when a 17-pass move ended with Pedro delivering a superb low cross from the right. Falcao got in front of Delaney to head inside Alex McCarthy’s near post, but within two minutes the game was decided.

Bolasie stood up another cross. Sako, unmarked at the far post, turned it back to Ward, who scored with a full-length header. “That’s why you’re going down,” chirruped the travelling fans who had the boisterous innocence of a bunch of eight-year-olds let loose on a bouncy castle.

“They always like that?” asked Mourinho. “ Yeah,” replied Pardew. Let’s face it, they’ve got a lot to shout about.

Chelsea: (4-2-3-1) Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Cahill, Azpilicueta (Kenedy, 68); Fabregas, Matic (Loftus-Cheek, 73); Pedro, Willian (Falcao, 66), Hazard; Costa

Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) McCarthy; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souaré; McArthur, Cabaye (Ledley, 82); Zaha (Bolasie, 55), Puncheon, Sako (Lee, 83); Wickham.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Man of the match: Sako (Crystal Palace)

Match rating: 6/10

Att: 41,581

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