Match Review: Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace

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Updated: April 1, 2017

After managing to go almost the entire season by being overly clinical, Chelsea finally succumbed to being ‘footballed’. 73% possession and 11 shots on target should’ve been enough to win the game, but alas it was not to be. Blame the international break, just because.

First Half

Chelsea came out of the gate flying. A long ball over the top to Pedro, playing the game at wing-back, after just 45 seconds was just slightly over-hit. It didn’t take long, though, for The Blues to score the first goal. In the 5th minute Cesc Fàbregas, starting over Willian, played a long, raking pass to Eden Hazard. The Belgian held the ball up brilliantly while he waited for the supporting cast to join him. Eventually he picked his moment and decided to ease his way past the defender to fizz a ball across the face of goal. Fàbregas had continued his run after the pass and latched on to an easy finish.

Whether it was complacency due to their fast start, tired legs from the week of travel, or just lack of concentration, Chelsea completely lost their heads defensively for two minutes. In the 9th minute Pedro looped the ball into the centre of the park only to find a Palace player. Wilfred Zaha somehow found space between a crowd of four Chelsea defenders and snuck a shot past Thibaut Courtois and into the corner of the net.

Just moments later Christian Benteke and Zaha found themselves, somehow, running deep into the home team’s half with just Gary Cahill and David Luiz in front of them. Luiz stepped up to try and take the ball from Benteke but it unfortunately rebounded right into the path of Zaha. He returned the ball to Benteke who sat Courtois down with a slight dummy and chipped it into the back of the net.

Chelsea had lined up in more of a 3-5-2 shape than we’d seen before. Adding Fabregas to the lineup provided an extra midfielder and the Spaniard was given a free reign. Most impressive of all was Hazard, he had one of the more individually brilliant halves of the season so far, popping up all over the pitch.

A highlight to an otherwise frustrating half of football was the flair Marcos Alonso was showing on the left-wing, including this audacious Elastico nutmeg on Joel Ward:

Second Half

‘A whole lot of trying, but to no avail’ was the theme of the second half. Chelsea were dominant, and at points they were amazingly fluid in attack. The adaptable 3-5-2 that the Blues were using was working, if only in performance alone.

What was particularly odd about the second half was the lack of movement for crosses. The goal in the first half was scored through a cross sent across the face of goal, and this was regularly attempted in the second half, but Costa routinely stopped dead for the pull-back (the midfielders job, but whatever). Fabregas, meanwhile, was starting the moves but was perhaps too gassed to make the late runs into the box.

Antonio Conte was clearly desperate, and resorted to making a substitution before the 89th minute! Willian was brought on to replace Nemanja Matic after an hour. At this point, on paper at least, Chelsea’s two wing-backs were Willian and Pedro. The Brazilian made a solid impact, another speedy dribbler for the Palace defense to deal with, but too often his crosses hit the first man or he’d stop to pass to César Azpilicueta.

Michy Batshuayi was brought on in the 74th minute for Alonso to go all out attack. The Belgian had five touches. In 16 minutes. Only two of them were in the box, but this had very little to do with Batshuayi. For some reason, the Blues decided not find the strikers feet and preferred playing the ball around from wing to wing.

Palace were resilient, making 21 shot blocks throughout the game, and helped their own survival aspirations by getting this hard-fought win over Chelsea.

Squeaky bum time?

An xG against of 1.77 doesn’t make for very pleasant viewing, but in truth the opposition’s chances came from the two goals in the first half and a few forays forward as Chelsea went full Kamikaze towards the end. What’s more worrying is the Blues inability to take advantage of their chances, particularly as results have become more hard fought in recent weeks.

Despite what members of the media would have you think, most Chelsea fans understand that the season was never going to end easily. However, the team face Manchester City on Wednesday and the last thing they would’ve wanted was to have dropped points in a home game against a team in the bottom half of the league.

Interesting stats via Whoscored:

Diego Costa – The striker had 9 shots, six more than the next highest shooter.

Chelsea – Finished the game with 72.7% of the possession.

Wayne Hennessey – Made 10 saves, also had the most attempted passes on his team with 36.

Benteke – won 11 aerial duels, the next best was Azpilicueta with three.

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