Wilfried Zaha returned from injury to inspire Crystal Palace to their first win of the season against Chelsea as the champions were beaten 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Roy Hodgson’s struggling side took a surprise, but deserved, lead in the 11th minute when Yohan Cabaye’s effort deflected off Cesar Azpilicueta and into the back of the net.
Palace’s joy was short-lived, however, as Chelsea hit back just seven minutes later when Tiemoue Bakayoko headed a corner kick past Julian Speroni to haul the champions back into the contest.
Palace remained the better of the two sides and the Eagles left their London rivals stunned moments before the break when Zaha, back after nearly two months out with a knee injury, scored to make it 2-1.
To make matters worse, Palace hadn’t scored a goal ahead of hosting the champions – and they knew that should they not find the back of the net against Chelsea, they would become the second team in Football League history not to score in their first eight games of a season after Halifax Town in 1990.
But, fortunately for Hodgson and his team, they avoided getting such an unwanted statistic given to them when, after a bright opening few minutes for the hosts, Cabaye opened the scoring.
It was a slightly fortunate opener, and was later given as an Azpilicueta own goal, but it was the all-important goal that ensured the pressure was lifted somewhat from Palace’s shoulders.
The hosts were defending better, winning balls back in midfield and handing Chelsea’s defence much work to do through the likes of Townsend and Zaha. But a momentary lapse in concentration just seven minutes later saw the champions restore parity following a corner kick.
Chelsea emerged with more intent in the second half, but they were mainly restricted to long-range shots at goal, such as Cesc Fabregas’ effort which hit the bar on its way over.
Palace didn’t seem content with trying to protect their lead in the second period, and had several chances to add gloss to the scoreline.
Nevertheless, the Eagles held on to secure their first win of the campaign – and in the London derby too – while Chelsea fell further back in the title race following their second consecutive defeat of the season.