Chelsea’s start to the Premier League campaign took another turn for the worse after being beaten 2-1 at home by Crystal Palace.
In his 100th home game as manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, who had only lost once at home in the 99 previous matches, would have his centenary spoilt by Sako and Ward.
It means the Blues have four points from four matches, a far cry from starting last season with 12 points from the opening four matches, a feat which Manchester City have managed this season, leaving the current champions already with an eight-point mountain to climb.
It should have been a routine win, buoyed on by the fact that Chelsea secured the title the last time they played Crystal Palace. But given Pardew’s successes against Mourinho, both in his role as Newcastle manager and now Crystal Palace, you knew it would be a tough afternoon, especially given Chelsea’s shaky start.
Branislav Ivanovic, newly appointed vice-captain, has has a shocking start to the season and it is easy to see why 50% of Palace’s attacks were down the Chelsea right in the first half, with the Serbian unable to contain Zaha.
Still, Chelsea had their moments: Pedro’s home debut brought Chelsea possession and the pressure off Hazard, but perhaps the Belgian needs the pressure as it was another off-day for the Chelsea Player of the Year last season.
Zouma was felled inside the box but Wickham was let off, as was Delaney when trying to wind up Costa.
Cabaye should have put the visitors in front when one-on-one but Courtois was equal to it, whilst at the other end, the dainty nature of Fabregas meant he opted to pass to Cahill rather than shoot himself. The Englishman did — but it went well over.
Trying to walk it into the net is a frustrating game for the fans and the tension was palpable for all to see on the Chelsea fans’ faces, especially against a well-organised Palace defence. Costa and Fabregas came closest but McCarthy was quick in a double save.
The second half would be a different story, with Palace largely dominating.
Bolasie came on and it was he who squared the ball to Sako, who smashed it past Courtois.
Mourinho’s reaction was instant: on came Falcao and Kenedy for Willian and Azpilicueta, but if Mourinho’s cryptic post-match messages are anything to go by, the wrong full-back was taken off. The Blues manager, normally a staunch defender of his players, slammed an unnamed individual who played the full 90 minutes, stating “I blame myself for not changing one of them”, with speculation it might be captain Ivanovic.
Loftus-Cheek came on for Matic but it was desperate stuff. Bolasie should have made sure of the points when he was six yards out, but the life-line came through Falcao.
Pedro has an assist to look back on for his home debut with his excellent whipped cross meeting Falcao’s head, who planted home the equaliser. His celebration showed passion and relief clearly on a personal note, but perhaps one should think more of the team, and his was still under-performing.
Could he spur on a turn-around in the last 10 minutes then? In short, no; in long, absolutely not. Palace responded instantly and Ward fired home a winner.
What is going on at Chelsea?
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Man of the Match
PEDRO: Another good display from the summer recruit, taking the burden off Hazard’s expense but perhaps retrospectively not for the Belgian, or whole team’s, benefit. The former Barcelona ace was Chelsea’s best threat going forward, and planted a delicious cross right into the head of Falcao to give Chelsea the leveller. Stinkers for the week are Ivanovic, Hazard and Costa. 6/10
Mourinho was defiant: “We didn’t deserve to lose. But Palace gave us a very difficult game. The result should be a draw, which would still be bad for us. We did enough not to lose. Four points in four matches is a very bad start. In another league I would say ‘game over’. In the Premier League I don’t say ‘game over’.”
Pardew was thrilled: “It was a really good performance today – one of the best performances I’ve seen from one of my teams in terms of composure. Our defenders had to defend really well and they did.”