Palace 0-3 Chelsea
After going undefeated through the month of December, Alan Pardew’s Eagles came crashing back down to Earth live on Sky against defending Champions, Chelsea. Goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa saw Chelsea run out comfortable 3-0 winners, a first away win for the Blues since August.
The hosts started brightly and were by far the better team until Costa capitalised on a Damien Delaney error and squared to Oscar, who tapped into an empty net on 28 minutes. Wilfried Zaha had already shot wide by this point and Fraizer Campbell twice failed to convert excellent centres.
Coming out a goal to the good in the second half, Chelsea's confidence grew and they looked like extending their lead several times before they did. It was Willian who eventually found a way through with a blockbuster of a shot from the edge of the area, into the top corner. Along with Jon Obi Mikel, Willian was a standout player for the visitors but this may not have been the case if Eden Hazard had not gone off injured. With the Belgian off, Willian came into the game more and was able to impress, having been previously stiffled by Hazard, with most of the play running through the Brazilian. This was the second time this season that Palace have had this happen. Sergio Aguero went off injured at Selhurst Park earlier in the season and his replacement, Kevin de Bruyne, took over the game.
Willian was then involved in the third as his shot was spilled by Wayne Hennessey, straight to the feet of Costa who could not miss from a few yards out. “Diego” chanted the travelling support – the very same fans that were booing him last week. How fickle us football fans are.
Palace’s afternoon was summed up with the very last kick of the game. Substitute Marouane Chamakh found space in the penalty area and, instead of shooting, he over hit his attempted cross to an unmarked Pape Souare at the back post.
It Has Been Coming
I had a horrible feeling all week that this was going to happen. I never thought that we would be smashed 0-3, but deep down I knew that this was going to be one game too far for our injury hit squad. Guus Hiddink, for the first time since his appointment as interim manager of Chelsea, had a week to spend with his team and get across his fresh ideas and, against a team that was missing three vital components, it had a very good chance in leading to a positive result for the visitors.
After failing to score against Bournemouth and Swansea without Connor Wickham and Yannick Bolasie, I could not see how it was going to be any different in this one and thought that the best that we were hoping for was another 0-0.
The reason why I felt this is because of Pardew’s unbending ways. Now this is only a small gripe. We are playing considerably better football than I have ever seen us play before since he has come in, however, when our first eleven is not available he still plays the same way, instead of altering the style slightly to suit the personnel.
"A pass percentage of 57% tells you how well our captain did."
In the Stoke game Joe Ledley came into the centre of the park and was basically asked to be James McArthur, meanwhile McArthur had to try to emulate Yohan Cabaye. With the greatest respect to McArthur, who I love as a player, he cannot perform like Cabaye (yet – I say yet as with each game that he plays alongside the Frenchman, he improves) and Ledley is a poor man’s McArthur at best. As a result the Stoke midfield run rings around us and if it was not for a great display from Hennessey between the sticks, we lose that game. In this game it was Mile Jedinak that was bought in to play alongside McArthur and a pass percentage of 57% tells you how well our captain did in trying to replace Cabaye.
As I have said in recent weeks, I have to be harsh on our team if we are talking about ourselves as contenders for a European place. Ledley and Jedinak served as brilliant squad players in a team that was finishing mid table, but they are not the sort of replacements that will enable us to compete for a top five place.
"I think part of the responsibility lies with Pardew here."
I think part of the responsibility lies with Pardew here. Don’t put Jedinak into a midfield and continue to have Hennessey pass short to Dann or Delaney and then have them passing the ball short to Jedinak or McArthur when there are Chelsea midfielders swarming all over them. Cabaye is world class and makes a mockery of a high press with his positioning and ability to pass the ball under pressure. Jedinak can’t pass consistently well even when there is no pressure on him. The big Aussie is there to break up play and there are few better than him at doing that aspect of the game - possession football is not his game, so let’s not be surprised when he does it badly. The same happened at City away in the 1-5 League Cup defeat so there is a history of this developing. I guess I am just asking for a plan C after 4-3-3 and 4-4-1-1.
Of course, this is all irrelevant if Campbell puts either of his chances away at 0-0, as I am positive that scoring the first goal in this game would have damaged their fragile confidence and we would have gone on to win the game, in which case Pardew’s tactics would have been perfect.
Kevin Friend of Chelsea
By booking Damien Delaney for his first foul on Diego Costa, the referee put the first nail in our coffin. It meant that the Irish defender could no longer get as physical as he would have liked to with the Chelsea number 19 and this is probably part of the reason that the first goal happened.
Was it a booking? Maybe. However, taking into consideration the wet conditions and the fact that it was his first foul, Friend could have let him off with a warning here. Especially when considering that he then allowed Obi Mikel to scythe down Joel Ward and then stamp on McArthur’s shin without so much as a consideration for a booking. In fact, Chelsea out fouled Palace by 15 to 12, yet Palace ended up with 3 bookings and Chelsea did not see yellow once.
Of course, there is no big team bias whatsoever.
Vine supplied by HLTCO. Follow him on Twitter here.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
Battled well with both full backs and beat them as often as they dispossessed him. End product was appalling but his performance was better than anyone else in a Palace shirt for me. Jonny Williams, making a long awaited return to the Palace team, may have run him close if he got more game time.
Up Next: Southampton FA Cup
A break from the league and a chance for Bolasie and Wickham to get closer to returning. Southampton are down in the doldrums but, for some reason, it also feels like we are at the moment.
A goal, a goal, my kingdom for a goal.
Come on you Palace!