The most shocking result of the Premier League weekend had noteworthy ramifications at both ends of the table—and that’s why the match was so special. Chelsea are one of the league’s storied clubs, for whom missing out on the EPL crown is a disappointment. Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are fighting for their top-flight lives. But this was a reminder that anybody can be beaten.
Dominic Fifield of The Guardian broke down the shock of the result well:
This was a result to confound logic even in a gloriously unpredictable top flight. Palace had secured a solitary point from 14 games against the Premier League's top nine before this match, their winless streak stretching back to the start of February with goals having long since dried up.
They had not managed one from open play since that last success though, befitting a contest that deviated from the prescribed script, Chelsea scored one for them here. John Terry's own goal early in the second half had Mourinho writing off his team's chances of regaining the title.
He scribbled one word down on a piece of paper, preferring not to damn his own out loud, when asked what his team needs if they are to improve. 'Balls,' read the note. That summed it up.
But the result isn’t just important for the headlines. The points (or lack thereof) are vitally important for both teams.
For Palace, the three points—especially considering the opponent—are a huge boost. They move into the 16th spot on the table and create some space from the dreaded relegation zone.
Crystal Palace have been playing well recently, but moral victories are meaningless. Manager Tony Pulis is hoping that the team’s first league win over Chelsea since 1990 will be the juice they need to finish the season strong, according to The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield:
Our results had dropped off, even if 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 in the world. The top teams have to play well or they can come unstuck.
Pulis needs this result to fuel a Palace run since they are far from safe—especially with Sunderland having only played 29 games to this point. Moreover, Palace have a number of tough games on their schedule to close out the season:
|17||West Bromwich Albion||31||5||14||12||-12||29|
With three matches against top-five teams, games like next Saturday’s tussle with Cardiff City are critical for the Eagles’ hopes of staying afloat.
|Crystal Palace's Remaining Schedule|
|Apr. 5||at Cardiff City||18|
|Apr. 12||vs. Aston Villa||12|
|Apr. 16||at Everton||5|
|Apr. 19||at West Ham United||11|
|Apr. 27||vs. Manchester City||3|
|May 3||vs. Liverpool||2|
|May 11||at Fulham||20|
If they can do that, Pulis will have done a terrific job, considering the circumstances when he took over. In fact, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho claimed that Pulis deserved consideration for Manager of the Year before the match, according to Martin Lipton of the Mirror:
Tony started with a team in a difficult position. It wasn’t the beginning of the season. It was a few months after, they were bottom of the league. It looks like other managers were approached and many didn’t want the job because the feeling was, ‘This team has no quality to stay in the Premier League’ – that it was a lost battle.
But he went there, step-by-step changed his team, brought in the players he wants, and his team are there.
The normal tendency is to give the Manager of the Year to the champions. But if Palace stay up, he can feel like a champion. He’d have won his challenge. So why not?
Mourinho may not be so generous with his words, however, after the result. We’re used to gloom, despair and mind tricks from the mercurial manager, but he was certainly despondent after the whistle had blown, per Rob Harris of the Associated Press:
We depend too much on other results. When you depend a little it’s possible, when you depend a lot, I don’t think it’s possible. We depend now too much. I don’t think now we can win the league.
Those words are certainly an attempt to motivate his troops, but there is a nugget of truth in them. Obviously, the result of this match shows that you can’t take any result for granted, but it does look like the Blues need some other results to go their way if they are going to hoist the Barclays Premier League trophy when it’s all said and done.
For starters, Liverpool and Manchester City have games in hand on the league leaders and only trail by one and two points, respectively.
But another big concern for Chelsea is that they need some drastically dominant performances to stand any chance of beating those two teams if it comes down to goal difference.
The good news for the Blues is that they have a favorable schedule as they march on to the end of league year.
|Top of the Table|
That match against Liverpool may well decide the title, and Mourinho can’t be thrilled about the prospect of traveling to Anfield—where the Reds have been phenomenal, winning 13 of their 15 games—with so much on the line.
We normally take certain matchups for granted, and Crystal Palace’s win was a strong reminder of the foolishness of making such assumptions. By the time the season is over, we may well be looking back on this match as the reason for Crystal Palace’s survival and Chelsea’s failure to win it all.