Palace Stun Chelsea to earn first points of the season
Wilfried Zaha scored the winner as Crystal Palace stunned reigning champions Chelsea to pick up their first victory of the Premier League season.
Palace had lost all seven of their previous games – including three under new boss Roy Hodgson – and had failed to score.
They finally ended their 731 minute wait for a league goal when Yohan Cabaye forced the ball down off his chest, which bounced off David Luiz and into the back of the net off Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Palace’s lead lasted only eight minutes as Cesc Fabregas’ corner was headed in by Tiemoue Bakayoko.
But Zaha, on his return from injury, made it 2-1 just before the break and Hodgson’s side held on despite an onslaught from the Blues in the second half.
The win does not move Palace off the bottom of the table, but they have reduced the gap from safety to four points.
Chelsea, meanwhile, stay fourth but are now nine points behind leaders Manchester City.
Zaha’s return inspires Palace
No points, no goals and nine conceded in their past two games. The outcome of this encounter looked bleak on paper for Palace.
But the hosts seemed rejuvenated after the international break and were inspired by the return of Zaha, who had been out of action with a knee injury since the opening day of the season.
The combination of Zaha and Andros Townsend caused problems throughout, with Townsend sending in the ball for Cabaye for the opener.
The Blues dominated possession in the second half with 60% of the ball, but they were unable to convert from the 12 shots they had.
Fabregas’ 25-yard strike hit the bar, while substitutes Pedro and Charly Musonda could not beat Julian Speroni – the 38-year-old keeper brought in to replace the injured Wayne Hennessey.
What went wrong for Chelsea?
The Blues looked pedestrian at times and seemed as off-colour as they had done in their 1-0 defeat by Manchester City before the international break.
The champions were without influential midfielder N’Golo Kante and striker Alvaro Morata, and also lost Victor Moses to a suspected hamstring injury in the first half.
But the front three of Michy Batshuayi, Willian and Eden Hazard failed to produce the goods, and although substitutes Pedro, Musonda and Davide Zappacosta piled on the pressure during a decent 15 minute spell in the second half, they could not find the goal they craved.
“We played this game without three important players and that’s not straightforward,” said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. “We started very badly and it was a very difficult day. But we need also to understand the situation and to continue to work, to find solutions despite our injuries.
“They are big losses for us but we can only accept the situation and then do our best. I am not happy and my players are not happy.”
I’ll enjoy a glass of wine – how Hodgson reacted
Hodgson could have become only the second permanent manager to lose his first four Premier League games in charge of a side without scoring a single goal, after his predecessor Frank de Boer.
Instead, the former England manager was able to celebrate his first victory in his new job.
“That was really enjoyable,” he said after the final whistle. “I have just said to the players that they really deserve to drink in that victory, because we played the champions of England but came off the field today having deserved our victory.
“In the past month we’ve taken some heavy defeats but even then there were moments that weren’t as bleak as maybe the scoreline looked.
“I don’t drink an awful lot these days. Red wine isn’t the best thing to drink if you want to keep your calories low, but I’ll enjoy a glass tonight because I enjoyed watching my boys play well and I’m proud of their performance.”
Man of the match – Wilfried Zaha