Friday, March 1, 2024

Crystal Palace 1-3 Chelsea: Player ratings as Gallagher haunts former side

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Two second-half goals from Conor Gallagher against his former loan team helped Chelsea earn a much-needed 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Monday night.

The Blues fell behind in the 30th minute when Jefferson Lerma struck powerfully from distance but were improved in the second period, equalising through Gallagher’s first two minutes after half-time.

The former Eagles midfielder popped up again in the 91st minute to finish a flowing move before Enzo Fernandez wrapped up the scoring with a stylish effort.

How the game unfolded

Palace, on the back of two home league wins on the bounce, were without key figures Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and Marc Guehi, with January signing Adam Wharton handed a first start for the Eagles. Chelsea, on the other hand, had lost five of their last six away league games with pressure firmly on the shoulders of manager Mauricio Pochettino.

An early pattern of away possession against home patience played out in the opening 15 minutes, with the hosts eager to get the ball forward quickly whenever possible.

A slack moment from Malo Gusto nearly gave Palace the lead midway through the first half, gifting Jean-Philippe Mateta the ball in a dangerous position. However, the French forward’s shot whizzed straight into Djordje Petrovic’s gloves.

That warning was not heeded by Chelsea, though the nature of Lerma’s strike was spectacular nonetheless. Tyrick Mitchell battled well before it fell to the Colombian, who cut inside and cracked a long-range effort into the far corner, leaving Petrovic with no chance.

The Blues’ victory over Aston Villa last week in the FA Cup helped Pochettino quieten some of the noise hounding his squad, but their start at Selhurst Park was uninspired and nearly got worse as Matheus Franca fired well wide from Mateta’s pass.

A solid attacking venture from Chelsea didn’t arrive until shortly before half-time when Noni Madueke found space and rolled in Gallagher, though the former Palace loanee could only place wide on this occasion.

Christopher Nkunku was introduced at half-time at Madueke’s expense as Chelsea sought an equaliser which came soon after the restart, which was delayed by some technical issues involving the matchday officials.

It was an instant improvement from the visitors as a well-crafted move involved Gusto and Moises Caicedo ended with Gallagher arriving on the end of a cut-back to connect powerfully on the half-volley.

Chelsea were poor for most of the first half but began creating chances more easily after equalising as Mateta intervened to clear a dangerous Thiago Silva flick before Cole Palmer’s strike was saved by Dean Henderson.

The visitors couldn’t capitalise on their momentum until the dying stages, when Gallagher stepped up.

The 24-year-old lurked on the edge of the box before Palmer laid the ball back to him, firing into the far corner to hand Chelsea a 91st-minute lead.

Palace’s desperation to find a leveller left space open for Palmer to run away on the break. He again passed, this time finding Fernandez, who sold Daniel Munoz a few dummies and gave Henderson the eyes before slamming a shot in at the near post.

The win moves Chelsea back into the top ten in the Premier League standings, while Palace are down in 15th, just five points above the relegation zone.

Jefferson Lerma, Matheus Franca, Jean-Philippe Mateta

Lerma belted in the opener / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

GK: Dean Henderson – 5/10 – Distribution from the back was a little all over the place but made some decent stops.

RB: Daniel Munoz – 6/10 – Made his home debut and gave fans plenty to be encouraged by with some commitment defending and tireless running. Got served a bit by Fernandez at the death.

CB: Joachim Andersen – 6/10 – Helped by Chelsea’s lack of a physical forward, though was wasteful in possession.

CB: Chris Richards – 6/10 – More assured than his centre-back partner having played in central midfield and at right-back in recent weeks.

LB: Tyrick Mitchell – 6/10 – Plenty of his punts upfield giften possession away, though Mitchell largely kept Palace’s left-hand side solid throughout.

CM: Adam Wharton – 7/10 – Impressively scrappy on his first Premier League start, showing good off-the-ball awareness and making nice looking passes.

CM: Jefferson Lerma – 7/10 – Banged in a spectacular opener, his first in the Premier League since April 2023. Made a couple of fouls and was booked elsewhere.

CM: Will Hughes – 7/10 – Had moments where it all looked a little easy for the former Derby prodigy, getting the better of his more expensive opponents on a few occasions.

RW: Jordan Ayew – 5/10 – Worked diligently down the right for Palace, though quality chances eluded him.

ST: Jean-Philippe Mateta – 6/10 – Did some good work in Palace’s build-up but could have done better with his major chance, shooting straight at Petrovic.

LW: Matheus Franca – 6/10 – Showed glimpses of his potential but snatched at his shots on the night.

Substitutes

Naouirou Ahamada (79′ for Hughes) – N/A

Odsonne Edouard (84′ for Franca) – N/A

Subs not used: Jeffrey Schlupp, David Ozoh, Jairo Riedewald, James Tomkins, Joel Ward, Nathaniel Clyne, Sam Johnstone.

Manager

Roy Hodgson – 4/10 – His side had a lead to hold onto, but Palace’s considerable absences told and they were unable to take any points from the game. The pressure increases on the former England boss.

Enzo Fernandez

Fernandez rattled in another goal from midfield / Julian Finney/GettyImages

GK: Djordje Petrovic – 6/10 – No chance for Lerma’s stunner and controlled his box well enough, though some long balls were poor in execution.

RB: Malo Gusto – 8/10 – Showed his threat in attack with an inch-perfect assist for Gallagher’s equaliser, backing that up with a commanding effort in defence.

CB: Axel Disasi – 7/10 – Composed with the ball at his feet and was a dominant aerial presence for Chelsea.

CB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Confidently organised his troops before a knock resulted in his second-half withdrawal.

LB: Ben Chilwell – 6/10 – Sometimes shrugged off the ball too easily out wide.

CM: Moises Caicedo – 7/10 – Tried to play the ball forward whenever possible and mopped up well in midfield.

CM: Enzo Fernandez – 8/10 – Was the midfielder ticking things over for Chelsea. Not overly probing with his passing but showed desire late on to make it three.

AM: Conor Gallagher – 9/10 – Saved his first league goals of the season for his former club, arriving late to finish off two flowing moves.

RW: Noni Madueke – 6/10 – Had a hand in a few enterprising attacks before being brought off early.

ST: Cole Palmer – 8/10 – Wasn’t getting joy up front but a move out wide gave Palmer more freedom. Coolness late on saw his grab two assists.

LW: Nicolas Jackson – 5/10 – Often looked out of sync with his attacking colleagues.

Substitutes

Christopher Nkunku (46′ for Madueke) – 6/10 – Added some zip to Chelsea’s attacking play.

Levi Colwill (61′ for Silva) – 6/10 – Kept things solid enough after Silva’s withdrawal.

Raheem Sterling (79′ for Jackson) – 7/10 – Made a pivotal pass for the second goal during an all-action cameo.

Alfie Gilchrist (84′ for Gusto) – N/A

Subs not used: Mykhailo Mudryk, Carney Chukwuemeka, Cesare Casadei, Trevoh Chalobah, Lucas Bergstrom.

Manager

Mauricio Pochettino – 6/10 – Placed his players in the wrong positions in the first half but tinkered enough to get a needed result late on.

Player of the match: Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)

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