Roy Hodgson was disappointed that a poor first half cost his side dear as Crystal Palace fell to a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge against reigning champions Chelsea.
The Eagles boss saw his side go two goals behind before half-time thank to Willian’s opener and an own goal by Martin Kelly, however following the introduction of Wilfried Zaha at the break Palace looked much more threatening and Alexander Sørloth hit a post and had a goal disallowed before Patrick van Aanholt reduced the deficit in the final minute.
That was too little too late for the visitors, but Hodgson was buoyed by his team’s display after the restart, and with light at the end of the tunnel regarding injuries and some morale-boosting displays against three of the sides in the top five of the table, he remains optimistic.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, the manager discussed a number of issues from the game, including:
The game: “It’s a shame that we didn’t play the whole of the game as we played the second half. I thought there was far too big a difference between the first and the second in our performance defensively and offensively, and we paid the price for it. Coming in 2-0 down against a team of Chelsea’s quality, and not least of all their pace and power on the counter-attack, it was always going to be very difficult, and a repeat of the first half performance could have ended extremely badly for us.
“The second half was much better – I thought that we were more aggressive and pushed up better from the back and played as we’d hoped to right from the first whistle. The introduction of Wilfried Zaha gave us a bit of a bonus and we started to ask questions of Chelsea, and in the end we could have drawn the game.
“The level of commitment in the first half wasn’t good enough in my opinion. I don’t think we had all 11 doing that in the first half, but we had all 11 doing it in the second.”
Sørloth’s disallowed goal: “Everyone tells me I should feel aggrieved about the goal that was chalked off; I only saw it from the touchline and the people that are telling me I should feel aggrieved are the ones that have studied it on the video. They tell me that there wasn’t too much wrong with it.”
Regrets not starting Zaha?: “No because that would be being wise after the event. If I had started him and he’d broken down in the 15th or 20th minute because he’s only done one-and-a-half training sessions and wasn’t able to play for the rest of the season, then you’d have a very different question.
“I thought we balanced it up as best we could, but I would have preferred to have kept him on the bench longer but the fact is I was disappointed with our first half performance so the temptation to bring a player of his quality on was too strong for me to resist.”
Tough run: “We’ve just suffered three straight defeats against top teams but on each occasion we haven’t discredited ourselves in any way. We have nothing to be ashamed of in any of the performances, and there’s only one half of those six that I feel we’ve been below the level that we believe we can reach
"The bottom line is we’ve conceded an 88th minute goal against Tottenham to take away a point we’d worked hard for, and conceded a 92nd minute goal against Man United to do the same, and today we’ve done our level best to come back on terms with Chelsea, and perhaps if the referee had interpreted a foul we might have come away from this game with a point.
“It’s very clear to me and the players what we have to do in these last eight games, and it will be to reproduce five of these last six halves that we’ve produced to make certain that we leave no stone unturned in our fight to stay in the league.”
Injuries: “Ruben Lotus-Cheek has been passed fit and trained with Chelsea all week, but from next week he will be back in training with us. Yohan Cabaye will be back in training, Mamadou Sakho will be training from the first day rather than just the day before the match, and we hope to get a full week’s training out of Wilf as well.
"If that happens then my squad will be looking more like the squad I had just before Christmas, and give me options tactically in terms of personnel which I’ve not had in the last three or four weeks. It’s a great credit to the players – I can’t speak highly enough of the back four because they’ve been all we’ve got but they’ve done a fantastic job.”