Crystal Palace 1-3 Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino’s side leave it late to secure three points at Selhurst Park – with Enzo Fernandez and a brace from Conor Gallagher piling the misery on under-fire Roy Hodgson

This could well mark the turning point for Mauricio Pochettino’s reign at Chelsea. For Roy Hodgson, you fear it could spell the end.

It’s ironic that it was former Crystal Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher that broke the veteran head coach’s heart – scoring twice as the Blues came from behind to secure victory at Selhurst Park.

But boy did they leave it late, the second of Gallagher’s brace – the winner – arriving in stoppage time before Enzo Fernandez rubbed salt into Palace’s wounds.

Hodgson’s position is under major scrutiny. It remains to be seen whether this loss is the final nail in his coffin. But what is clear is the club’s hierarchy face some serious soul searching.

As for Pochettino, it’s two wins from two – and finally some signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

Conor Gallagher netted his first Premier League goals of the season as Chelsea fought back to defeat Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson was forced to name a rotated side with the Eagles still without the likes of Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Marc Guehi

Roy Hodgson was forced to name a rotated side with the Eagles still without the likes of Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Marc Guehi

The first 45 minutes was a largely drab affair, with Chelsea failing to register a single shot on target prior to the interval

The first 45 minutes was a largely drab affair, with Chelsea failing to register a single shot on target prior to the interval 

It wasn’t pretty – but they got over the line. That’s all that matters at this level.

Decimated by injuries, Roy Hodgson gave £22million January signing Adam Wharton his full debut while Matheus Franca, the club’s marquee capture of the summer, was handed his first Premier League start since a £26million arrival from Flamengo last summer.

With Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Chieck Doucoure and Marc Guehi all missing there was a semblance of realism, certainly among Palace supporters, about what was possible ahead of kick off.

Take the four best players out of any team and there’d be similar apprehension anywhere in the country.

The excuses, however, are starting to wear thin. ‘Weak club culture and direction,’ read one banner. Another took a pop at Palace’s transfer policy and accused the club of ‘scapegoating’ youth players.

This was supposed to be a season of growth, instead it has become one of worry and fear as the team lurch towards the relegation zone.

This isn’t a happy part of south London right now; their injury woes have merely compounded the misery.

Eight miles away in a rather more salubrious part of the capital, things aren’t much better.

Indeed, it is representative of Chelsea’s inconsistencies that, despite their opponents’ selection problems, you wouldn’t have put your mortgage on them taking full advantage.

Friday’s FA Cup win at Aston Villa helped alleviate the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino. But the tensions remain, bubbling away under the surface.

After a disappointing season and a fanbase that is growing increasingly disaffected, it seems Pochettino is always one defeat away from a crisis. That’s never a good position to be in.

Their start here was more steady than assured. Possession? Yes. Chances? Not really.

Indeed, it was Palace striker Jean-Philippe Mateta that carved out the first real opportunity but his effort from 14 yards carried little conviction as Djorde Petrovic made a comfortable save.

There was nothing the Chelsea keeper could do about what was to follow, however.

How Moises Caicedo and Noni Madueke combined to lose possession around 30 yards out of their own goal is an answer Pochettino is likely to have angrily demanded answers to at half time.

Not that Jefferson Lerma will be interested in what either player had to say.

Jefferson Lerma would break the deadlock on the half-hour mark, rocketing his strike beyond Dorde Petrovic in the top corner

Jefferson Lerma would break the deadlock on the half-hour mark, rocketing his strike beyond Dorde Petrovic in the top corner

Chelsea came out energised in the second half, with Gallagher netting early to equalise for the visitors at Selhurst Park

Chelsea came out energised in the second half, with Gallagher netting early to equalise for the visitors at Selhurst Park

His strike from 25 yards was sweet and true. Like an arrow. Unstoppable.

Selhurst Park erupted. Pochettino turned round to his bench in disgust. Some supporters have already decided the Argentine isn’t the man to lead them forward.

But this expensively assembled squad isn’t helping him. The calamitous contributions from Caicedo and Madueke the latest aberration.

Chelsea had 79 percent of possession in the first-half. Their first shot arrived in the 45th minute, Conor Gallagher’s tame angled effort trickling hopelessly wide. The numbers are compelling.

Madueke paid the price for his role in Lerma’s thunderbolt opener, hooked at half time in place of Christopher Nkunku.

The start to the second half was subjected to a lengthy delay due to a fault in referee Michael Oliver’s communication technology.

The Selhurst Park PA technician tried to liven the mood by blasting Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds over the tannoy system.

Pocehttino nor his assistant Jesus Perez saw the funny side, as both ordered Chelsea’s players to keep moving in fear of a second half injury.

When proceedings eventually got underway, it took Chelsea less than two minutes to level as Gallagher, against his former club, fired Malo Gusto’s cross powerfully past Dean Henderson.

With both fists clenched, Pochettino hardly flinched to greet his side’s leveller.

Tangible improvement from his side’s insipid the first-half. That wasn’t hard, of course.

That should’ve provided the platform for Chelsea to surge home. But credit to Palace, they didn’t roll over.

Thiago Silva denied Mateta’s goal bound effort with a last-ditch tackle that saw him suffer an injury that eventually saw him limp off in place of Levi Colwill.

Franca, albeit raw, showed enough to warrant the excitement of his arrival last year, while Wharton’s eye for a forward pass caught the eye.

Gallagher was again on hand against his former club in the closing minutes, netting in stoppage time to give them the lead

Gallagher was again on hand against his former club in the closing minutes, netting in stoppage time to give them the lead

Enzo Fernandez then added insult to injury for the Eagles by adding a third goal before the full-time whistle

Enzo Fernandez then added insult to injury for the Eagles by adding a third goal before the full-time whistle

Chelsea gradually began turning the screw. Gusto’s influence was growing down Chelsea’s right while Ben Chilwell fired narrowly over from distance in the 68th minute.

Nicolas Jackson was next to squander a decent chance, glancing a header wide before Cole Palmer should really have done better after carving open a good opportunity for himself in the 78th minute.

The home crowd were growing restless. That angst that has infected the club in recent months rising to to the surface.

They feared the worst, certainly when substitute Raheem Sterling saw his close range effort blocked by two Chelsea defenders.

And their worst fears were realised in injury time when Gallager fired home at the death to break Hodgson and Palace’s hearts.

Fernandez completed Chelsea’s comeback with a rifled shot beyond Henderson in the closing seconds.

 


Source From: Football | Mail Online

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