Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned
With both teams locked in very different battles at either end of the table, everyone expected Premier League leaders Chelsea to take all three points at Selhurst Park.
It didn't quite work out that way, though.
John Terry found himself on the scoresheet, but it was at the wrong end of the pitch, as he headed into his own net on 52 minutes to put the home team 1-0 ahead.
And that's how things remained, as the Blues suffered their second straight away defeat to leave them clinging on in the title race.
Manchester City's draw at Arsenal later in the afternoon means they now sit two points behind the Blues but have two games in hand. Meanwhile, Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday, knowing victory will put them two points clear at the top.
Here's what we learned from Chelsea's defeat at Selhurst Park.
Jose Mourinho Has Been Right All Along
Jose Mourinho's denial of Chelsea being favorites to lift the Premier League title this season has been seen as nothing more than the Portuguese playing mind games.
We've all bought into that view, giving him too much credit for his genius in the dark arts of football management.
Well, Saturday's 1-0 loss at Selhurst Park has all but written the Blues out of contention now. The title race is between Liverpool and Manchester City, leaving the Blues playing for nothing more than automatic qualification for the Champions League.
Much like during the recent away defeat to Aston Villa, Chelsea lacked the cutting edge to dispatch Crystal Palace when they found themselves in difficulty.
They may have thrashed Arsenal 6-0 last weekend, but this defeat tells us much more about Chelsea than that victory. The Blues aren't ready just yet.
Mourinho has been eager to stress that point for much of the season, but we haven't listened. Now we should.
He has been right all along.
The Champions League Is Chelsea's Only Hope of a Trophy This Season
The Premier League may have appeared to slip away for another season, but Chelsea have everything to play for in the Champions League.
The Blues have arguably the best draw they could have hoped for in their pairing with Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-final.
Jose Mourinho's men are more than capable of advancing to the semis, and at that stage, it will be Cup football and nothing more. The form book becomes irrelevant, and it will be anyone's trophy to win.
There are still six games remaining in the league, but in reality it's only in Europe where Chelsea can win something now.
And unlike the league, Chelsea's European fate is very much in their hands. Their results will decide how far they progress and nothing more.
Records Stand for Very Little
We hear it said a lot, and Saturday proved it—records aren't worth the paper they are written on.
It had been 24 years since Crystal Palace had beaten Chelsea, and what's more, they had never beaten a team that was sitting at the top of the Premier League.
Well, that all counted for little at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles didn't seem to let those facts weigh them down, and nor should they have.
Tony Pulis' men may have won the game in an unfashionable way, but they have Premier League survival to worry about. The three points on Saturday will go a long way in ensuring they are in the top flight next year.
Tony Pulis Deserves More Respect from the Media
It's fair to say, Tony Pulis isn't the most revered manager in football.
After masterminding victory over Chelsea, however, the respect he is afforded by the media needs to change.
Sure, he doesn't bring a guarantee of trophies or even beautiful football to win over neutrals. What he does offer, though, is a pragmatic approach that gets the best out of the players he has at his disposal.
Pulis made Stoke City an established Premier League team during his time at the Britannia Stadium, and the signs are he will do the same with Crystal Palace.
When he was appointed boss on Nov. 23, Palace were sitting in 19th place with just seven points to their name from 12 games. They had conceded 21 goals and were certain to be relegated.
In the 19 games since, they have averaged 1.26 points per game, leaving them on 31 points—five clear of the relegation zone and with a game in hand. They have conceded just 18 goals, too.
He has transformed the club's fortunes, and if the Eagles maintain their Premier League status this term, it will be largely down to him.
That deserves respect.
Crystal Palace Will Avoid the Drop
If the spirit of Crystal Palace's players is even half of what they showed against Chelsea on Saturday in their remaining fixtures this term, they will avoid the drop from the Premier League.
The Eagles played with desire and commitment to the cause, chasing every ball and making every tackle. Their work rate was incredible, and it got them a much-needed victory in the fight against relegation.
They can't just do it against Chelsea, though. Palace need to ensure they have the same attitude against Cardiff City next weekend and their subsequent opponents until May.
If they do, there's little chance this team will not be in the top flight next term.
Ball Boys Remain a Thorn in Chelsea's Side
The headlines on the back of this result are going to deal with much more than Chelsea's defeat at Selhurst Park.
They're going to involve ball boys. Again.
The Blues were trailing overall in the tie, and as the clocked ticked down at the Liberty Stadium, it soon became an apparent tactic from the ball boys to slow down play whenever the ball went out.
Frustrated, in an attempt to restart the game more quickly, Hazard kicked the ball from under one of the ball boys, who had decided to lie on top of it instead of doing his job and returning it.
The Belgian was sent off for perceived violent conduct.
A similar incident came close to occurring against Crystal Palace when Jose Mourinho approached one of the Selhurst Park ball boys late into the game when he thought he was wasting time.
Mourinho explained his reason for leaving his technical area in his post-match interview with BBC Sport.
"I told him to not do that because he has a risk that one of my players will punch him or lose his temper," Mourinho said.
It seems a fair explanation, but then again, this is Mourinho. Fair reason or not, this is one story that is going to run and run.