In a dramatic London derby at Selhurst Park, Chelsea mounted a stunning late comeback to beat Crystal Palace 3-1. The Blues looked dead and buried after going a goal down in the seventh minute, but two goals in the space of five minutes from Kai Havertz and Conor Gallagher turned the game on its head. Crystal Palace old boy Patrick Vieira was left ruing missed opportunities as Chelsea snatched an unlikely win right at the death through Hakim Ziyech.
The home side started brightly and took a deserved lead through Odsonne Edouard’s clinical finish. The French striker pounced on some slack defending from Chelsea to slot home his seventh Premier League goal of the season. Palace continued to dominate proceedings and went close to doubling their advantage through Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha.
As half time approached, Graham Potter’s Chelsea looked bereft of ideas and in danger of slipping to a disappointing defeat. The Blues struggled to create any clear-cut chances, with Kai Havertz cutting an isolated figure up front. Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech failed to provide the creative spark in midfield, while Conor Gallagher endured a testing return to his former club.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with Palace comfortably containing Chelsea’s frustrated attackers. But the game exploded into life in the space of five crazy minutes. First, Havertz popped up in the box to head home a Mount cross from close range. Then just minutes later, Gallagher stooped to nod in a Ziyech corner and complete a remarkable turnaround.
Shellshocked by the two quickfire goals, Palace sagged and their earlier confidence evaporated. Instead it was Chelsea smelled blood, pushing forward relentlessly for a third as the home side’s defence buckled. In the 90th minute, Ziyech put the result beyond doubt with a composed low finish from the edge of the box after being teed up by Gallagher.
A breathless seven-goal thriller ended 3-1 in Chelsea’s favour, leaving manager Potter mightily relieved after it looked for long spells like his stuttering side were set to come unstuck. For Palace and Vieira, this was a hammer blow – to dominate so comprehensively for 80 minutes but end up with nothing to show for it.
The Frenchman will wonder how his side conspired to throw away three points from such a commanding position. Chelsea offered little going forward for most of the match, but two slices of quality from Havertz and Gallagher changed everything. Ziyech’s late strike only compounded Palace’s agony.
The Blues were clinging on for long periods, but this smash and grab raid means they consolidate third place in the table. For Gallagher, scoring the winner against his old team made it a night to remember. Potter will be aware of how fortuitous this victory was, but after a difficult week he will simply be ecstatic to take all three points back to Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea manager opted to start Havertz as a lone striker with new boy Joao Felix still adapting after arriving on loan from Atletico Madrid. But operating as a focal point did not come naturally to Havertz, and too often he was drifting out wide or dropping deep. That left Mount and Ziyech with nobody to aim for in the box.
It was only when Chelsea reverted to a front two later on, with Felix introduced from the bench, that they carried a sustained threat. Potter will surely consider pairing Havertz and Felix from the start in the next match to pose more problems for opposition defences.
Palace are left to pick up the pieces after imploding from a winning position. For over an hour they had the Blues on the ropes with their vibrant attacking play. Edouard took his goal clinically while the likes of Zaha and Olise stretched the Chelsea defence.
But Vieira will rue not capitalising during their period of dominance. They failed to make their pressure count by grabbing a second goal. In the end, that came back to haunt them as Chelsea grew into the game and turned it around with two quality finishes.
Having worked so hard to establish control, this was agonisingly close to a famous win for Palace. But they were made to pay for switching off and allowing Chelsea a route back into the contest. Vieira’s men remain in 14th position, looking over their shoulders nervously at the relegation scrap.
On the balance of play, his side deserved more but they were left empty-handed after Chelsea’s smash and grab. The Blues escaped Selhurst Park with the points despite being second best for long periods. Potter will be hoping this narrow win acts as a catalyst, as Chelsea look to build momentum after a rocky spell.