That was superb entertainment. Chelsea are far from the finished article, but their games are so good to watch. They’re excellent going forward, pretty ropy at the back, and the midfield is a mixed bag. But it’s stage one of their journey under Frank Lampard, and the way they carry on isn’t a million miles away from some of those daft to-and-fro goalfests involving Liverpool during the early phase of Jurgen Klopp’s stewardship. So, nothing’s guaranteed, but, well, y’know. Palace meanwhile responded fantastically to going two down in unfortunate circumstances, and will wonder how they’ve not earned themselves at least a point tonight. A huge improvement on their recent form.
FULL TIME: Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea
There’s just enough time for a last-ditch Zouma slide on Benteke, who was bearing down on goal … and that’s it! Chelsea were hanging on at the end there. But they’ve squeaked it! Palace gave them a hell of a game, but it wasn’t quite enough. Chelsea move up to third, two points clear of Leicester City on 60 points. Leicester can reclaim third if they win at Arsenal later tonight. Palace stay in 14th.
90 min +4: McCarthy finds Zaha down the left with a glorious diagonal rake. Zaha and Van Aanholt nearly open Chelsea up with a brisk exchange of passes, but not quite.
90 min +2: Palace win a corner on the right. Kouyate falls over his own feet, but with Loftus-Cheek directly behind him, claims for a penalty. No dice. Chelsea go up the other end, Willian slamming a shot into the chest of Guaita. This match has been relentless from the get-go.
90 min: Meyer comes on for Milivojevic. Then Pulisic – Chelsea’s star turn today, with the arguable exception of the supersub Jorginho – dances down the left before standing one up for Willian, whose first-time volley is blocked by Van Aanholt. That would have been a cracker.
89 min: Willian skitters down the inside left and enters the box, but can’t quite decide whether to shoot or cross. He manages neither, but the ball squirts across to Abraham, in an inexplicable amount of space, 12 yards out. Abraham screws a poor shot well wide left. He should have made the keeper work at the very least.
87 min: Since Jorginho came on, seven minutes ago, Chelsea have enjoyed 80 percent of possession. And to think Frank Lampard is reportedly thinking of getting rid.
86 min: Willian slithers in from the right, a wonderful run that draws a few Palace players. He offloads to Mount, who tries to thread a shot into the bottom left. Guaita does extremely well to tip round for a corner, from which nothing comes.
85 min: Jorginho must have touched the ball about a thousand times since coming on. He’s pinging it around hither and yon. He releases Willian and Mount into space down the right, but the pair don’t get their one-two quite right and Van Aanholt is able to intercept and tidy up.
83 min: Pulisic embarks on a power-skitter down the inside-left channel. It’s a twinkle-toed delight, but he can only beat so many men and is eventually crowded out on the edge of the box. He’s a proper player.
82 min: Jorginho is immediately involved, drawing some pretty triangles with Mount and Willian, then snapping into a 50-50 challenge with Benteke. Chelsea look a little calmer already.
80 min: Chelsea further bolster their midfield by swapping the inexperienced Gimour for Jorginho, making his first post-lockdown appearance. Palace respond with a double change, replacing McArthur and Ayew with McCarthy and Townsend.
78 min: Willian backs himself in a footrace down the right with McArthur and Milivojevic … and nearly wins it. The Palace men did very well to keep up there. Chelsea are forced to turn tail.
77 min: McArthur floats a pass forward to Benteke, who backs into Zouma, then falls over and claims a penalty. The referee is quite correctly not interested in the slightest.
75 min: James crosses from the right. It’s dangerous enough to earn a corner. Willian takes long. Sakho, at the far post with his back to goal, does very well to adjust and clear. Palace break upfield, Ayew working his way down the left. But he over-elaborates and runs the ball out for a goal kick. We may only have 15 minutes plus stoppages to play, but good luck guessing the final score of this.
74 min: This match is great. That’s Benteke’s first goal here since April 2018, 24 long games ago.
GOAL! Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea (Benteke 72)
Palace come straight back at Chelsea and close the gap! Kouyate and McArthur combine down the left and slip the ball inside for Van Aanholt, who glides into the box, drops a shoulder to get past Azpilicueta, reaches the byline and rolls across for Benteke, who can’t miss!
GOAL! Crystal Palace 1-3 Chelsea (Abraham 71)
Chelsea launch a counter, and it’s so simple. Loftus-Cheek races down the middle. As he reaches the box, he intelligently waits and waits, hovers and hovers, drawing Dann and Sakho before chipping cutely between them for Abraham, who threads a shot across Guaita and into the bottom left. Lovely goal!
70 min: The game restarts. Palace are immediately romping forward. Zaha dithers awhile out on the right, and it looks like all momentum is lost, but suddenly he whips a cross into the centre. Benteke tries to connect with a spectacular volley … but doesn’t.
68 min: And that, gentlemen, is drinks.
66 min: Loftus-Cheek is quickly in the thick of it. He should be sent racing down the inside-left channel by Mount, but the pass is a little bit behind him and he can’t gather it smoothly. The danger – Palace were light at the back – is gone.
65 min: Chelsea make a double change, in the hope of regaining control of midfield. Barkley is replaced by former Palace loanee Loftus-Cheek, while Giroud makes way for the more mobile Abraham.
64 min: Nothing comes of the second corner.
63 min: Ayew bustles down the left and wins a corner off James. Milivojevic hits it long. Neither James nor Giroud manage to hack clear. Ayew tries to swivel on the penalty spot and smack goalward, but his effort is blocked out for another corner.
61 min: Milivojevic is good to continue, though he’ll have a shiner of a left eye later this evening by the look of it.
60 min: An extended break in play as Milivojevic is given the once-over by the quack, having run slap-bang into his team-mate Ayew’s knee while falling over.
58 min: Another cross from the right by James, who looks a threat every time he moves up the flank. This one’s not quite as good, headed clear easily enough by Sakho. But what a prospect James is. A fine attacking full-back in the up-to-date style.
56 min: Palace are beginning to dominate now. Even factoring in their slow start to the half, they’ve had 64 percent of possession since the restart.
54 min: This game is back to its first-half, end-to-end best. James crosses from the right, a magnificent delivery that lands on Giroud’s head, six yards out. He must score, surely, but blasts his header over the crossbar. He pulls his arctic-blue jersey with disrupted herringbone knit over his face in monochromatic despair.
52 min: Ward and Kouyate work their way down the right but can’t find Benteke in the middle. Chelsea race up the other end, Barkley flinging a raking diagonal towards Giroud, just inside the box on the left. Giroud attempts a cushioned header to tee up Pulisic, but the flag goes up for offside.
51 min: Van Aanholt takes a speculative dig from 25 yards. The ball smacks Willian straight in his startled face. Ooyah, oof, ow. That will have been a sore one. He’s given some time to recover.
49 min: A little better from Palace as Ward and Benteke combine on the edge of the box to release Ayew into a little space on the right. But the resulting cross is no good and easily mopped up by the visitors.
48 min: Chelsea shift the ball from left to right at speed. James is found in space down the channel, and fires a low centre towards Pulisic at the near post. Sakho, sliding hysterically across the turf, does enough to get in the way and Palace clear. The hosts haven’t really got started again yet.
46 min: Chelsea are quickly on the attack, James opening his legs down the right and swinging in a cross that’s easy for Guaita.
Palace get the second half underway. Neither manager has made any half-time changes.
Half-time reading …
… and some real good listenin’. Enjoy, enjoy!
HALF TIME: Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea
Pulisic continues to torment Ward, this time winning a free kick near the left-hand corner flag as he tears past him. Mount’s deep delivery is headed clear by Dann, and that’s the end of a riotously entertaining first half. It fair flew by. More please!
45 min +2: Chelsea are extremely ragged now, and could do with hearing the half-time whistle. Kouyate is bowled over by Gimour, 35 yards out. Milivojevic curls the free kick onto Benteke’s head; the big striker flashes a decent header goalwards, but straight at Kepa, who gathers with safe hands.
45 min: There will be four added minutes.
44 min: Ward curls viciously from a tight spot on the right. His cross pings off the top of the crossbar, Kepa flapping under it in panicked confusion. Turns out the ball had curled out of play before hitting the frame of the goal, but Chelsea have to be worried about the form of their keeper. He doesn’t exude solidity.
43 min: On the touchline, Roy Hodgson strokes his chin in the pensive fashion, mentally composing his half-time team-talk. It’ll be a damn sight easier after that Zaha belter.
41 min: Suddenly Chelsea aren’t quite as potent when they get the ball. Palace have done extremely well to fight their way back into contention.
39 min: McArthur makes it to the byline on the left and hooks a dangerous low ball into the mixer. Azpilicueta is forced to hack behind for a corner, and he looks concerned, Chelsea’s defensive travails at West Ham presumably flooding back into an addled noggin. From the corner, Dann loops a header harmlessly wide. This game is great fun.
38 min: What a way for Palace to score their fourth first-half goal at Selhurst this season, though, huh? Now for the next target: matching their season’s best 90-minute total of two. Anything’s possible.