LONDON: Joel Ward proved the unlikely match-winner as Crystal Palace produced one of the shocks of the season to win 2-1 away to Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
It was only the second time in 100 league games under manager Jose Mourinho that Chelsea had lost at their west London home. This result also meant Chelsea had lost twice in the league this season after being beaten 3-0 away to title rivals Manchester City a fortnight ago and left them with a mere four points from as many games this term.
By contrast, Chelsea lost just three league games in the whole of last season. Palace took the lead via Bacary Sako before substitute Falcao hauled Chelsea level late on. But Ward was Palace’s unlikely hero when he headed home two minutes later as the south Londoners won at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1982. Chelsea, without the suspended John Terry, began slowly but finally found their feet. After a concerted spell of pressure without ever testing Crystal Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, Pedro came closest to a breakthrough when his shot was deflected just over in the 21st minute.
Willian was off target for Chelsea before Sako forced the first save by either goalkeeper. A quick break found Sako, who scored the winner on his debut last week, and his low drive from the angle was kept out by the foot of Thibaut Courtois.
If Sako was presented with no more than a half-chance, then Yohan Cabaye should have taken his clearcut opportunity in the 29th minute. Wilfried Zaha found space but could only shoot at Courtois from eight yards out.
Palace manager Alan Pardew’s expression on the touchline said it all and he knew his £12 million ($18.4 million, 16.5 million euros) marquee signing should have handed the visitors the lead.
Chelsea were struggling to find any fluency but a rare attack of note saw them threaten in the 41st minute. Diego Costa, who was largely anonymous throughout, saw his shot pushed out by McCarthy before Cesc Fabregas’s rebound was also kept out.
Mourinho would have demanded more intensity from his side but Palace once again threatened as the lively Sako crossed but Connor Wickham could not manoeuvre his feet in time to connect.
Sako then forced Courtois into a low save at his near post. Chelsea, in a rare foray forward , saw Eden Hazard deflect wide before, from the resulting corner, Gary Cahill’s header was cleared off his own line by Sako. Then, barely 60 seconds later, Sako was up the other end to open the scoring in the 65th minute.
Yannick Bolasie crossed and the Mali winger, following a fortunate ricochet, struck from eight yards out past Courtois. Chelsea immediately sent for reinforcements with Falcao thrown on but it could, and should, have been all over in the 73rd minute as Bolasie sliced wide from close range following a Sako cross.
It was miss Palace looked like regretting when Falcao stooped low to head home Pedro’s cross in the 79th minute. Mourinho urged his players to halt their celebrations to get on with the job in hand of winning the game.
But any hope of that was extinguished two minutes later by Ward. Bolasie’s cross saw Sako set the ball up for Ward to nod in into an empty net as Chelsea slipped eight points behind league leaders Manchester City.
City down Watford to set club record
MANCHESTER: Manchester City set a club record of 10 successive league victories by maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season with a 2-0 win over Watford at Eastlands yesterday.
Raheem Sterling’s first competitive goal for City since his £49 million ($75.4 million, 67.4 million euros) move from Liverpool set up the win early in the second half, before Fernandinho added a second with a fierce drive to end the newly-promoted visitors’ unbeaten league start.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side are three points clear at the top of the table after winning their first four league matches of the season without conceding a goal.
The run of 10 victories, stretching back to April, beat a record set in 1912. They were patient in breaking down a dogged but limited Watford side, and by the end of the match were showing the attacking verve which has made them the early favourites to win the title.
City are about to add to that threat with the £52 million signing from Wolfsburg of Kevin De Bruyne, who flew into Manchester yesterday for a medical, and his arrival is bound to sharpen up a side who struggled in the first half despite plenty of possession.
Pellegrini had warned in his programme notes that Quique Flores would bring a disciplined, hard-working side to Eastlands and he was proved right.
Watford were well-organised and difficult to break down, with Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami working hard in midfield to shield the back four.
Pellegrini’s side had to be patient, even as they enjoyed plenty of possession, but after a frustrating opening 20 minutes, they began to create chances.
Aleksandar Kolarov lifted a free kick over the bar and, moments later, Craig Cathcart got across to block when Fernandinho and Yaya Toure combined to send in Raheem Sterling down the right.
Gradually, City began to find cracks in Watford’s defence and Heurelho Gomes saved the visitors twice in quick succession just before the half-hour mark.
Firstly, the former Tottenham goalkeeper got down quickly to hold Bacary Sagna’s snap shot after Vincent Kompany had touched a Jesus Navas corner into his path.
Then Gomes got lucky, with Sterling racing clear to shoot under the ‘keeper, whose touch did just enough to turn the ball wide as it squirmed beyond his dive.
Fernandinho’s industry matched the prodigious work rate of Watford’s midfielders, and he nipped in moments before half-time to dispossess Almen Abdi and play in Sergio Aguero, who showed wonderful speed of thought and technique on the edge of the penalty area to shoot just wide on the turn.
Pellegrini withdrew Navas at half-time in an attacking reshuffle, switching David Silva to the right and bringing on Samir Nasri.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, his team were in front, with Silva involved. The Spain international played a pass wide for Sagna to cross in low and Sterling burst between Cathcart and Sebastian Prodl to turn in his first City goal from six yards. It was a goal that visibly deflated Watford, and gave Pellegrini’s side the platform on which to secure victory. A second goal followed nine minutes later, with Silva a part of it once more.
Yaya Toure bounced a free kick off the visitors’ wall, and Fernandinho nodded forward to Silva, before collecting the playmaker’s clever reverse pass down the right and drilling a shot across Gomes into the far corner from a tight angle.
Thereafter, City saw out the win comfortably, aside from one scare when Troy Deeney was played through for Watford, and Sagna made a fine block.
Toure almost added a third when he steered a Kolarov left-wing cutback wide from the edge of the penalty area, and Gomes then needed to be alert to beat away a Nasri effort.
Spurs held by Everton
LONDON: Tottenham remain without a Premier League win this season after Harry Kane failed to end his goal drought in a 0-0 draw against Everton yesterday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side find themselves down in 15th place with three draws and a defeat following the White Hart Lane stalemate. It is a worrying opening for the north Londoners, whose major concerns revolve around the poor form of England striker Kane and the club’s failure to provide him with quality support.
In the 11 appearances before his England debut last season Kane scored 14 goals, yet in the 12 appearances since netting on his full international debut in March, he has netted just twice and is still waiting to get off the mark this term.
Much of the pre-match focus was on Everton defender John Stones, who this week saw his transfer request rejected as the Toffees fight to keep the England international from joining Chelsea.
Stones had plenty of work to do in the first half as Tottenham dominated from the moment Nabil Bentaleb fired just wide from Nacer Chadli’s cutback.
However, a careless mistake from Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker almost gifted Everton the lead when he trod on the ball, setting Tom Cleverley in on goal, only for the midfielder’s powerful shot to be pushed away by Hugo Lloris.
Kane’s malaise continued when he squandered a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 23rd minute. Ryan Mason’s slide-rule pass sent Kane clear on goal, but Everton keeper Tim Howard blocked his weak effort. Moments later, Chadli’s perfectly-weight pass picked out Mason, but the midfielder’s angled low shot was saved by Howard’s legs.
Howard’s heroics continued as the American veteran made a fine finger-tip save to push Toby Alderwierweld’s header over the bar midway through the first half.
Everton suffered a blow just before half-time when Cleverley was stretchered off with what looked like a serious ankle injury.
Tottenham substitute Dele Alli almost made an instant impression in the second half when he latched onto a poor touch from Gareth Barry to prod Mason through on goal but his low shot was saved by Howard.
Kane misfired again, Chadli blazed over from the rebound, then Alli had a penalty appeal turned down as Pochettino’s side tried in vain to break the deadlock.
Jan Vertonghen was next to try his luck with a dipping strike that Howard pushed over before Kane had a goal disallowed for offside. Everton’s Kevin Mirallas almost snatched the points in the last minute with a header that raced straight at Lloris. -AFP