Chelseas' lead at the top of the English Premier League was cut to seven points on Saturday after they suffered a shock 1-2 home loss to Crystal Palace.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defeat and Tottenham beating hosts Burnley 2-0 meant hopes have been raised about any chance of toppling Chelsea. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea had won their past 10 league games at Stamford Bridge and had not lost there in any competition since Sept. 16. But all that run ended against a battling Eagles side.
The Blues struck first, when Cesc Fabregas turned home Eden Hazard’s cross after five minutes, but they were quickly behind. Wilfried Zaha produced a fine solo finish to turn and fire home from the edge of the penalty box. Seconds later, he set up Christian Benteke to put Palace ahead with a delicate dinked effort. Chelsea piled on the pressure but could find no way past Eagles goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who made 11 saves in total to ensure his side won a fourth successive game.
The international break cannot have helped Chelsea’s rhythm but that did not seem a problem when Hazard, back from a calf injury, and Fabregas combined early on. Putting Pedro in as right wing-back in place of the absent Victor Moses did not seem to cause the leaders too many issues either, as many of their best attacks came down that flank.
A drop in energy levels might have played a part in part in places, however. N’Golo Kante, who played 90 minutes for France against Spain in midweek, was noticeably below par. More than 10 minutes of stoppage time was played before the game ended. However, Chelsea did not appear any more likely to score and were reduced to hopeful balls into the box as Hazard’s influence faded. In spite of their lack of sparkle, Chelsea’s defeat was not down to a lack of chances. But, when they did break down Palace’s determined defence, they found Hennessey in inspired form.
His best save was an instinctive stop from Diego Costa in the first half. But every facet of the Wales international’s game was tested as Chelsea tried to find a way back into the game after going behind. Hennessey had to move quickly to keep out Marcos Alonso’s dangerous cross-shot, and dash from his line to prevent Costa from stretching to poke the ball home.
The goalkeeper was also tested from distance by Nemanja Matic. He was helped by his defenders when dealing with the sheer number of crosses from the home side — 35 in total. But he did superbly marshall a back-line which changed twice during the game because of injuries to James Tomkins and then Scott Dann.