Goalscorers: Cesar Azpilicueta 11 OG, Tiemoue Bakayoko 18, Wilfried Zaha 45
Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Ward, Yohan Cabaye (Jairo Riedwald 86), Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur (Timothy Fosu-Mensah 85), Jeff Schlupp (Jason Puncheon 75), Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha
Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Victor Moses (Davide Zappacosta 39), Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Willian (Charly Musonda 65), Michy Batshuayi (Pedro 57)
Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 25,480
Crystal Palace looked in dire straits at the start of October 2017. Seven games into their campaign and the Eagles had made the worst start ever in Premier League history. Seven defeats, no points earned and not even a goal scored. Their situation seemed hopeless already. Frank de Boer had been sacked just four games into his reign, replaced by Roy Hodgson. Hodgson had a reputation to repair himself. He had been out of work since England’s humiliating exit in the 2016 European Championships at the hands of Iceland. The chance to revive Palace’s fortunes and put himself back on the managerial map was too good to turn down.
After the October international break, Selhurst Park was packed to welcome the visit of league champions Chelsea. Antonio Conte’s side had recovered well from a shock opening day loss at home to Burnley and were boasting a 100% away record following fine victories away at Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Stoke City. The Blues were widely anticipated to keep that record going.
After 641 goalless minutes at the start of the season, Crystal Palace finally registered a goal to take a surprising early lead. Andros Townsend picked out Yohan Cabaye who showed great persistence in the penalty area, causing havoc which Chelsea’s defenders couldn’t deal with. David Luiz panicked and the ball eventually came off his teammate Cesar Azpilicueta and rebounded into the back of the net. It set the tone for an uncomfortable afternoon for the reigning champions.
Conte’s side were missing the energy of N’Golo Kante, who had been injured playing for France during the international break and it showed. However, his replacement did provide the equaliser. Tiemoue Bakayoko escaped his markers to guide home a corner from his central midfield partner, Cesc Fabregas. However, Chelsea’s front three of Michy Batshuayi, Willian and Eden Hazard failed to seriously test Julian Speroni on a regular basis.
It was another Palace returnee who would ultimately score the winner. Wilfried Zaha had been out of action since the opening day of the season but he returned with perfect timing. On the stroke of half-time, he escaped Azpilicueta’s challenge and slotted the ball beyond Thibaut Courtois.
Despite enjoying 60% of possession and piling the pressure on in the second half, Conte’s side couldn’t find a way through. He experienced back-to-back defeats for only the second time as a Premier League manager. Palace were finally off the mark for both goals and points. Their season finally had lift-off, thanks to the management guile of Hodgson and the skill of Zaha, who proved to be their integral matchwinner throughout the 2017-2018 season.