Crystal Palace add to Chelsea’s early-season woes

Mourinho’s side a pale shadow of champions as Alan Pardew’s team claim deserved win

Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2 In the end there were examples all over the pitch. Linger on former Republic of Ireland international Damien Delaney, once considered a mere journeyman who almost gave up soccer to take up triathlons, bullying Diego Costa to distraction or flinging any part of his body in front of Chelsea's frantic late pursuit of parity.

Or Joel Ward, a right-back popping up in Chelsea's six-yard box just after the concession of an equaliser to nod in the winning goal. The first man to him in the celebrations in front of the away support was Pape Souare, the left-back, which said much for the visitors' ambition.

Then throw in Jason Puncheon, a converted winger so comfortable in possession that he utterly eclipsed Cesc Fabregas as a midfield metronome, and James McArthur harrying opponents incessantly at his side. Bakary Sako, a man-mountain of a free transfer arrival with a battering ram of a left foot, intimidated his markers with his sheer presence.

Yannick Bolasie, a man coping from the recent loss of his father, embarrassed a team of champions. The showboating served to demoralise. And yet to pick out individuals among the visitors' number on Saturday would be unfair. This was all about the strength of their collective.


Crystal Palace were everything here that Chelsea, at present, are not. Theirs was the energy, the conviction, the motivation while the Premier League holders spluttered in disbelief, struggling to comprehend their own mediocrity.

A first home defeat by their neighbours from south London in 33 years was not a freakish result. Jose Mourinho, completing a century of home league games in charge, bemoaned the non-award of a first-half penalty but to cite Connor Wickham grappling with Kurt Zouma actually betrayed a manager clutching at straws.

Double efforts

More worrying was his admission that he did not know why players this club has long since learned to trust have been floundering of late.

This team were exposed as leaden-legged by Palace's energy. Fabregas's toils have heaped far too much on Nemanja Matic, who is wilting with every performance. Eden Hazard is dropping ever deeper, desperate as he is to pick up possession and spark a revival, but he was lost here as Palace snapped at his heels and nullified his influence by enjoying their own periods monopolising the ball. Teams underpinned by Yohan Cabaye are not kick-and-rush.

Costa seems more intent on scrapping with opponents than leading the line and then there is Branislav Ivanovic, whose traumatic start to the campaign encapsulates his team's ordeals. The Serb, such a mainstay of this side over recent years, has never looked so diminished. Perhaps this is the hangover having featured in every game last season. Maybe he is simply exhausted.

Bolasie, with Souare galloping upfield at his back, humiliated Chelsea's stand-in captain, just as Jefferson Montero did with Swansea.

The manager rightly bemoans a pre-season which has left his squad undercooked and the suspicion is that there are underlying frustrations at the failure to make improvements to the side earlier in the summer. But Mourinho is not exempt from criticism. It is his responsibility to motivate. There are questions, too, with selection. It is hard to fathom why Loic Remy, a player Chelsea fought so hard to retain not least after Palace declared an interest in taking him across the capital, has not been offered more than 45 minutes in the Community Shield to date this season. Or why the Brazilian Kenedy, so bright on his introduction here, was being asked to inject that forward-thinking momentum from left-back.

Radamel Falcao will feel better for a first Chelsea goal but the team propelled by self-belief was always Palace. They had arrived with a cause, sporting black armbands for Bolasie’s father. He played a part in both his team’s goals, extending Pardew’s remarkable record to 10 wins in 12 away games in all competitions since taking up the reins. This team are upwardly mobile.

Chelsea face a fortnight of introspection before they attempt to kickstart that defence against Everton and Arsenal. These are troubled times.

Guardian Service