In what will go down as one of the shocks of the season, Crystal Palace inflicted a serious dent on Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles took the lead early in the second half when John Terry turned into his own net following a Joel Ward cross.
Though Chelsea dominated proceedings in terms of possession, they failed to carve out many meaningful chances and fell foul to a cruel stroke of luck as Terry’s header was enough to give Palace all three points.
Party mode ensued at Selhurst Park on a remarkable day for the club as their official Twitter feed noted at the final whistle:
Full Time!!! Crystal Palace 1-0 Chelsea! What a day, what a result for Crystal Palace Football Club!— Crystal Palace FC (@Official_CPFC) March 29, 2014
Following the match, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho ruled out the Blues’ hopes of Premier League glory, albeit prematurely, saying to BBC Sport:
Now we have lost our chance of finishing first. Now we depend too much on other results. Crystal Palace deserved the victory, they fought for their lives. We had good chances and their goalkeeper made some good saves in the first half. But their spirit was stronger, their desire was stronger and their commitment was stronger. That disappoints me, but it's a defeat that we can only blame ourselves for.
The loss means that Chelsea now need to rely on Manchester City slipping up even more if they’re to get their hands on the Premier League trophy come the end of the season, as the Premier League table depicts.
City sit three points back from Mourinho’s side with a crucial three games in hand prior to their visit to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal.
The task does indeed appear a daunting one for the West Londoners, but with the amount of twists and turns that have played out already this season, anything is possible.
It was a very bad day at the office for Chelsea, who looked a shadow of the side that have brushed teams like Crystal Palace aside with minimal fuss over the course of the season, having just two shots on target all match, per SkySports.
Meanwhile, over on the joyous side of the capital, Palace manager Tony Pulis hailed the importance of his side’s performance against the champions-elect during an interview with BBC Sport, saying:
It's a very important result for us. Our results had dropped off, but the performances had been OK, but to beat Chelsea will give everyone a boost to push on for the last seven games. The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and that's why it's a great league. The top teams always have to play well or they can come unstuck.
The win moves Palace five points clear of the drop zone, and according to OptaJoe on Twitter, it was the Eagles’ first win against top-half opposition this season:
1 - This is the first time that Crystal Palace have ever beaten a side placed at the top of the PL table (at the start of the day). Shock— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 29, 2014
With a crucial match away at fellow strugglers Cardiff City coming up next week for Pulis’ Eagles, beating Chelsea with as professional a performance as they’ve put in this season will breed confidence throughout the side.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and Mourinho will lament what could have been. A win at Selhurst Park and you’d be brave to bet against the Blues going all the way, but now the Portuguese manager may be staring at a third-place finish with Liverpool nipping at their heels at the top of the Premier League.
We’ve come to expect gold dust from Mourinho during his post-loss interviews, blaming referees, refusing to talk and such, but even he couldn’t find the words to explain Chelsea’s display.
It seems that the Premier League title pendulum has once again swung Manchester City’s way.