Match Report: Crystal Palace 1-0 Chelsea – The Special One

By - Monday 31st March, 2014

Crystal Palace stunned league leaders Chelsea with a 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon

Photo by Graham Sawell – used under the Creative Commons license

Stunning, superb, sumptuous, sterling, startling, surprising, and spectacular. There are too few superlatives in the Oxford English Dictionary to adequately describe Crystal Palace’s performance at Selhurst Park on Saturday as they produced one of the performances of the season to stun Premier League leaders Chelsea and earn a 1-0 victory in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Selhurst Park.

It was that crowd which thoroughly deserved what came to pass on a warm afternoon in South London.

Straight from the off, Palace looked to attack the Blues on the counter, with Jason Puncheon particularly threatening; but it was Chelsea who had the first opportunity. A ball in on the overlap to the Palace area saw Cesar Azpilicueta place a delightful ball across the face of goal, but somehow André Schurrle contrived to put the ball the wrong side of the post giving the Eagles a huge let-off.

The Palace faithful were in fine voice and on 26 minutes Adrian Mariappa did well to get in behind the Chelsea back line but Bolasie couldn’t turn his heavy cross home. Three minutes later, Mariappa once again found himself in behind and squared the ball to Cameron Jerome whose legs were swept from underneath him by Gary Cahill but much to the dismay of the home support, referee Lee Mason refused to give a penalty and waved play on.

The Eagles were dominating the game at this point. Half an hour in and despite an early opportunity for the league leaders, Palace had more than held their own on the pitch and on the terraces. Chelsea fans quipped early on, “where’s your famous atmosphere?” Little did they know what was to come as Palace were sublime both on the pitch – much to the credit of Tony Pulis as well as the those in the red and blue stripes that have adorned the Palace shirts for many a year – and off the pitch in the stands.

It may have taken a while to get going but the traction engine that resembled the foot of Darren Ambrose in Palace’s last famous scalp at Manchester United, went full steam ahead into the second half.

Fuming from a second penalty appeal after another foul from Gary Cahill, this time on Bolasie, the Palace supporters welcomed the second half with greater fervour than before, and their support paid dividends soon after the restart. A one-two between Joel Ward and Bolasie down the left wing saw the former Portsmouth defender deliver a delightful ball into the penalty area and as Joe Ledley reached for the cross

Chelsea skipper John Terry sent a glancing header into the corner of his own net and elation engulfed the majority of those inside of Selhurst Park as Palace took the lead.

It was nearly even better after a superb run from Jerome found Jason Puncheon but the former Southampton man dragged his shot ever so slightly wide of Petr Cech’s post.

If ever there was a man who needs not do more to set in stone his legendary status at Palace, it is Julian Speroni.  Eden Hazard found himself with only the Argentinean to beat; but somehow the Eagles’ stalwart knew what was coming. As Hazard’s curler was bending into the bottom corner Speroni anticipated the effort and flung himself to the left to parry it away. The home support rose as one to applaud one of the most incredible saves seen at Selhurst Park in years, if not decades. The save was demonstrative of a gutsy, ingenious, inspired team effort from Palace.

With 17 minutes plus stoppages to play the Eagles took the game to Chelsea on the counter perfectly.

Throughout the game, it was evident that the plan had been break with pace. Tony Pulis’ gameplan worked to perfection and it was almost all over a minute later as on 74 minutes Palace broke out of defence and Jerome worked his way into the Chelsea box and fired a left footed shot only for it to smash against the upright. Palace were inches away from sealing it there and then.

As if to prove that Palace were no one-trick pony with blood and guts, but no skill; Joel Ward dazzled and delighted SE25 with some superb footwork to dance past two men and eventually find Puncheon, who could only fire into the body of Cech.

Roared on with every attack, Palace had Chelsea on the rails.

Alas, it would not be Palace without a heart in mouth scenario; and late substitute Stuart O’Keefe provided that. The former Southend United youngster dallied with the ball just outside his own area, only to turn and attempt a pass-back which Fernando Torres intercepted. However, the £50m man could only loft the ball over the crossbar and Palace breathed a sigh of relief.

As the game drew to a tense, but exciting close every touch from a Palace player was greeted with such delight, such drama, such passion. The decibel level at Selhurst Park had risen to such heights that it represented the collective relief, love, passion and sheer delight from the 23,000 or so home supporters. This was carnival day, it was the culmination of almost four years of painstaking rebuilding from a club that was being read it last rites. Here it was, some £30m or so later – the millions paling into insignificance given that Chelsea included numerous players who commanded fees of that price alone – defeating the former European Champions, the current Premier League leaders. Without wishing to give credence to any suggestions that Chelsea were somehow a superior football club and this was Palace’s cup final, it was, nonetheless, a momentous victory.

If it was heartache at Sunderland, and heartbreak at Newcastle, then this was certainly heartmake.
The Eagles outplayed the league leaders to earn a precious three points and climb ever so close to safety.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Puncheon (Parr 90), Ledley, Bolasie (O’Keefe 70), Jerome (Murray 88). 

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Luiz (Oscar 46), Matic, Lampard (Salah 52), Schurrle (Ba 70), Hazard, Torres. 

Goals: Crystal Palace 1 (Terry OG. 52′)

Referee: Lee Mason.

Attendance: 25,166.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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