Crystal Palace 1-3 Chelsea (Lerma 30′ | Gallagher 47′, 90+1′, Fernandez 90+4′)
SELHURST PARK — For a while, it seemed as though there would be no winners or losers in the battle of the under-fire managers. That is until Conor Gallagher popped up to score an added-time winner and pile the pressure firmly back on Roy Hodgson.
Crystal Palace fans have grown increasingly frustrated at the club’s perceived lack of progress and ambition unfurling banners in the stands before games and unleashing boos when things go wrong on the pitch. Monday’s message read: “Weak club culture and direction”.
They got behind their depleted side from the start, though, rattling through their repertoire of songs and letting off a luminous red flare that temporarily shrouded Dean Henderson’s goal with a hazy fog. Some even booed Gallagher, presumably for having the audacity to not join permanently after starring during a loan spell at Selhurst a couple of years ago.
This is Palace’s 11th consecutive season in the Premier League, an unprecedented spell for the club in the top-tier of English football, but simply put, Palace fans have become bored. Bored of finishing in mid-table every season. Bored of seeing fans of similar-sized clubs enjoying themselves on midweek trips abroad. Bored of watching Hodgson’s football.
With both of Palace’s two stars Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise missing through injury, it was natural to wonder where Monday’s excitement might come from. Jefferson Lerma was the unlikely provider.
A record of 13 goals in 195 league games in English football indicates that Lerma is not a great goal scorer. What the data doesn’t reveal is that he is a scorer of great goals instead.
Moments after being bumped off the ball as he lined up an audacious scissor kick, the Colombian unleashed a spectacular strike from range that swerved satisfyingly into the top corner. It was a stunner that was met with a collective gasp of astonishment before the stadium erupted.
Up until then Chelsea had dominated the game without ever looking as though they would score, an attacking gameplan reduced to funneling the ball out to Malo Gusto to whip crosses into a striker-less penalty area. Chelsea had 80 per cent possession in the first half but didn’t register a shot on goal until the final minute of it through Gallagher. Palace, meanwhile, had six and a strong penalty claim when Thiago Silva – recalled after his wife’s outburst at Mauricio Pochettino before later hobbling off injured – shoved Daniel Munoz in the back.
An issue to Michael Oliver’s headset ensured a lengthy delay to the start of the second half, cue Palace’s opportunistic PA announcer playing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds over the speakers to pass the time. The visiting fans were still singing along when Gallagher volleyed their team level, converting smartly from a Gusto cut-back for his first Premier League goal of the campaign. For a second, everything suddenly did feel alright.
Chelsea began to play with greater intensity and purpose. Moises Caicedo began to dictate from deep, with Enzo Fernandez leaving him to it to charge upfield. They found a cure to their shooting allergy, with Ben Chilwell arrowing a strike just over and Cole Palmer growing ominously in influence.
Player of the match: Conor Gallagher
- The match-winner on his return to Selhurst Park with two well-taken goals in the second half.
Palace posed a threat themselves with Matheus Franca, the Brazilian teenager who fans have been clamouring to see more of, testing Djordje Petrovic with a firm strike on the edge of the area.
But it was Chelsea’s night. Gallagher, a player that Pochettino has attempted to build around despite the looming threat of him being sold for Financial Fair Play reasons, won it with an accurate finish into the bottom corner after being teed up by Palmer. Fernandez then made sure of the points, steadying himself before sweeping in the third.