History repeated itself as Palace picked up a second successive 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge to end Chelsea’s 13-match winning home record and seal an incredible fourth win in a row.
All the goals came in a blistering 11-minute period at the start of the match, with Palace bouncing back from Cesc Fabregas’ fourth minute opener by stunning the Blues thanks to two goals in 60 seconds from
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke, and despite there being an hour and 20 minutes still to play, as well as nine minutes added time, Sam Allardyce’s defence held firm to record a famous win against the Premier League’s champions-elect.
A breathtaking, action-filled encounter began with a bang as a flurry of early goals went in, and it originally looked like it was going to be a difficult afternoon for the Eagles as the hosts grabbed the opener just four minutes in. A raking pass set Eden Hazard scampering down the left, and delving into his box of tricks he found a way to escape past Joel Ward and centre for the untracked Fabregas to tuck the ball past Wayne Hennessey from close range via the upright.
Most teams would have crumbled at the prospect of falling behind so early on against the runaway league leaders, but Palace responded positively and incredibly within seven minutes they found themselves in front by turning the game on its head.
It all began on nine minutes when Jason Puncheon nodded the ball to Benteke just outside the area. He held it up and played it to Zaha, who dribbled to the edge of the area and despite being crowded by three defenders, he unleashed a low shot that found the one piece of netting that Thibaut Courtois couldn’t stop to draw his team level.
Then just 60 seconds later, the pair combined to send the visiting fans into dreamland. A swift counter-attack began when Benteke received the ball on the halfway line and advanced 20 yards before finding Zaha.
Immediately, Blues defenders swarmed around him which allowed the winger to quickly return it to the unmarked Belgian, and despite not scoring for two months Palace’s top scorer showed great composure to sit Courtois down and dink the ball over him to move into double figures for league goals this term.
Knowing that they would immediately face a backlash, Palace were put under plenty of pressure and after escaping strong penalty appeals after the ball struck Andros Townsend’s arm, only the reactions of Hennessey kept them in front when Hazard and Fabregas linked up to carve out a chance for Diego Costa who slipped when shooting, but the Eagles keeper managed to get something in the way to prevent it crossing the line.
Limited to the odd venture forward, Palace nearly extended their lead when Puncheon dragged a 25-yarder narrowly past the post but the barrage continued and Hennessey was kept busy in the half’s latter stages; firstly blocking a Hazard fizzer from Hazard before twice denying Nemanja Matic who saw a scuffed grasscutter and a header from a Fabregas free-kick saved by the Welshman as Palace escaped into the break with their lead intact.
At half-time Allardyce had to make a switch with Scott Dann replacing James Tomkins, but just 10 minutes later the skipper had to be stretched off after he twisted a knee bravely blocking a goalbound Costa effort, with Damien Delaney becoming the third man to line up alongside the rock-solid Mamadou Sakho, but despite another setback the visitors nearly made it 3-1 when another break saw Puncheon play in Zaha who forced Courtois to save with his feet.
Thankfully for the Eagles the chances began to ease up with Hennessey not called into action when Willian fired a free-kick over the top, however there was a let-off with 15 minutes remaining when Costa should have buried a header after some more fine wing-play by Hazard but the Spanish international screwed his header wide of the mark.
However as the minutes ticked by Chelsea threw more caution to the wind but they were finding Hennessey in fine form, and his next save came when Fabregas took aim from 10 yards out but he was thwarted by the shot-stopper’s foot, and then Costa headed on top of the net as the Eagles crept closer.
And despite seven minutes of stoppage time being awarded, Allardyce’s side saw out the final stages and could have even sealed it when Zaha fired over from inside the box, but another 2-1 win at the Bridge made it four wins out of four as their quest to stay in the Premier League took a massive step forward.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Alonso (Batshuayi 74), Matic (Willian 59), Kante, Hazard, Fabregas (Loftus-Cheek 90), Pedro, Costa. Subs not used: Begovic, Zouma, Terry, Chalobah.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins (Dann 46, Delaney 60), Sakho, Schlupp, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend (Kelly 60), C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Ledley, Sako, Kaikai