Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Crystal Palace's plummet towards the Premier League relegation zone continued despite a hard working performance against league leaders Chelsea. Diego Costa’s header just before the break was enough for Antonio Conte’s men to take the three points back across London.
“We played well”
I’ve both heard and read a lot of people suggesting that “we played well” and deserved more from the match. I am sorry, but this is simply not true. Chelsea marshalled us very comfortably and barely broke into a sweat.
Going into the match, we had scored the 5th most goals in the division, yet Chelsea easily limited us to a mere two shots on target and neither of them truly threatened Courtois. That doesn’t translate into a good performance to me.
People have also pointed to the fact that we had 54% possession in the match. While this sounds impressive against a side that possesses the quality that Chelsea do, it is misleading. At half-time Chelsea were leading possession with 54% of the possession. Once they established a lead, they allowed us to have the ball and set up to counter-attack. Defensively they were exceptionally good and forced out midfielders into passing where we were weak. Almost every time we tried to attack, the final part of the move ended up with us in wide positions with two players against their four or five, with all passing angles blocked off. It was extremely effective and showed how the 3-4-3 formation can be so rigid yet fluid all at the same time. But for a couple of good saves from Wayne Hennessey in the second half, the counter-attack strategy of the visitors would have proved successful as well.
This game was no different to all of the disappointment that we suffered at Selhurst Park last season. Teams sitting deep and us not knowing how to break them down. I guess that the “transition” is still in the early stages.
I don’t want to put a dampener on the efforts that we put in. The players worked hard, but ultimately we were forced to play the way that they wanted us to and that does not mean that we played well. It means we battled valiantly against an ultimately far superior team.
Our chance to get something from this game was to keep it 0-0 for as long as possible and hopefully draw them out as they sought the winner and catch them on the counter. As soon as it was on us to score, the game was over.
Unfortunately, there is only one place to look for the reason that we fell behind after limiting their chances in the first-half.
The last couple of games has been Wayne Hennessey’s Crystal Palace career in a microcosm. He has made some genuinely brilliant stops and claimed his fair share of crosses. Yet, he has arguably cost us a point in both games with poor decision making. Coming out to Ibrahimovic and not fully coming for the cross that Costa scored from shows that his decision making is always going to let him down- and ultimately cost us games.
Former Crystal Palace goalkeeper, John Burridge, is no fan Hennessey and agrees with my thoughts. In recent months he has been critical of the Welsh number one on Twitter, and he was back at it again after this match:
“Wayne Hennessey is the worst decision maker I have ever seen as a keeper. On Costa’s goal is he coming or staying on his line? Neither #poor”
Man of the Match: Yohan Cabaye
His best game for a while. He kept the ball extremely well and huffed and puffed against an extremely hard working Chelsea midfield.
Up Next: Watford
I do not need to tell anyone how important this game is. We have to win two-thirds of the games between now and the end of February, or we face the genuine prospect of competing in the Championship next season – keeping the curse of the losing Cup finalists being relegated going.
Come on you Palace!