Report and free match highlights as Jefferson Lerma's fine strike saw Crystal Palace ahead in the first half; Conor Gallagher's equally as fine strike equalised 90 seconds after the restart; the former Crystal Palace loanee netted again late on, followed by Enzo Fernandez
Tuesday 13 February 2024 13:12, UK
Conor Gallagher's double and Enzo Fernandez's late third helped Chelsea to a 3-1 win against Crystal Palace on Monday Night Football.
The weight of anticipation weighed heavily on both sides heading into the game. Could Chelsea find consistency after a fine performance from midweek against Aston Villa? How would under-pressure Crystal Palace fare without three of their best players in Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and Marc Guehi?
The Eagles were by far the better in the first half. They outshot Chelsea six to one, and made it count too as Lerma volleyed home a sensational effort to see Crystal Palace ahead on the half-hour.
But Chelsea improved after the break and it was another superb goal inside 90 seconds of the restart that saw them level, this time from former Crystal Palace loanee Gallagher.
The game looked to be meandering towards a draw - but two late goals from Gallagher (90+1) and Fernandez (90+4) saw Chelsea to the three points.
It sees Chelsea into the top 10 above Wolves with 34 points. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, remain five points above the relegation zone.
It was Crystal Palace who had the better first-half chances. Djordje Petrovic saved from Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta - the latter's effort coming after a sloppy giveaway from the visitors.
And the hosts made their chances count when Lerma scored a stunner. It was sloppy defending from Chelsea - and some industrious play from Tyrick Mitchell - that saw the ball break for the midfielder. He then hit it superbly on the volley, rifling past Petrovic's outstretched hand.
Chelsea were on the cusp of ending the half with no shots. But, as three minutes of added time was shown, Gallagher dragged an effort wide and off target.
And Gallagher thumped Chelsea level 90 seconds after a delayed restart - referee Michael Oliver needing to sort out some malfunctioning technology. One of Malo Gusto's right-wing crosses was finally met too as Gallagher thundered home the equaliser, roaring in celebration in front of the away fans to his right.
Although the second half remained a largely quiet affair, there were a few chances for either side. Ben Chilwell over the crossbar, while Nicolas Jackson also nodded wide. At the other end, Petrovic made a superb stop to deny Matheus Franca's fine effort.
But for all of Crystal Palace's good work, they were sucker-punched in injury time. It was a neat check back from Cole Palmer for Gallagher, who then swept the ball into the bottom left corner for his second of the evening.
Sky Sports' Gary Neville called it 'devastation for Palace' on co-commentary, but there was more capitulation to come.
Crystal Palace threw everyone forward in the hope of an equaliser, but they were hit quickly on the break as Chelsea finished with a third. It was a sensational run from Palmer, who unselfishly laid the ball off for Fernandez. He had plenty of time to pick his spot before rifling home.
Crystal Palace: Henderson (6), Munoz (6), Andersen (7), Richards (6), Mitchell (7), Lerma (7), Hughes (7), Wharton (7), Franca (6), Ayew (6), Mateta (6).
Subs used: Ahamada (6), Edouard (n/a).
Chelsea: Petrovic (7), Gusto (7), Disasi (6), Silva (7), Chilwell (6), Fernandez (7), Caicedo (6), Gallagher (8), Palmer (7), Madueke (7), Jackson (6).
Subs used: Nkunku (6), Colwill (7), Sterling (6), Gilchrist (n/a).
Player of the match: Conor Gallagher.
Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher speaking to Sky Sports:
"In the second half, the gaffer gave us more structure in their half of the pitch to try and create more chances.
"And having the two strikers to make more runs in behind to create more space which I think it did. It was really good from the manager and definitely helped us to play better."
Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino speaking to Sky Sports:
"We were flat in the first 45 minutes, very disappointing. We need to react to the game. We need to avoid that and start a game like this so flat. Maybe there was a foul when we conceded.
"We started the second half really well and we scored. It was a tough game but I'm so pleased.
"We just want to build our confidence and realise we need to be more consistent. We used two strikers in between the centre-back and the full-back. We put Gusto and Chilwell higher and moved the ball quicker with Enzo in a number 10 role. It helped us score."
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson speaking to Sky Sports:
"From the way the fans were it seems they thought the same. Their support was really good.
"We shot ourselves in the foot to a certain extent. Our lead lasted one minute into the second half, it's something we've talked about a lot and didn't want to happen again. I think we were value for the 1-1. The third goal for them was the match-winner.
"I can only hope that the fans are realistic. We have injury problems and we have some young players making debuts and finding their way in the game. I would like to think they take all those things into consideration.
"I would like to think with the players coming back, and seeing what they saw tonight from the new players, they might be feeling fairly positive about our chances going forward because there are still 14 matches left in the season. You can't control that, I don't know what people are thinking and what their attitudes are going to be.
"The team gave their very best and did give the fair-minded supporter a chance to believe in this team and club as we go forward."
Asked by the BBC if he is confident of keeping Palace in the Premier League, Hodgson added: "I am confident we can do that. At the moment we are playing without three or four of our most experienced and quality players and they won't be out until the end of the season.
"I am not concerned we are going to be relegated and the way the players played tonight, if you add the quality to that, I don't think we need to be too concerned about relegation. We are not complacent about it but I believe in the team and players and believe they will pull us through."
Both Crystal Palace and Chelsea are back on Sky Sports next weekend.
Crystal Palace return to Monday Night Football on February 19 as they travel to Everton; kick-off 8pm. Chelsea will feature on Saturday Night Football on February 17 as they visit Man City; kick-off 5.30pm.
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