Chelsea came from behind to secure an important three points with a last-gasp 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. Conor Gallagher was the hero for the Blues, grabbing two second-half goals against the side where he spent an impressive campaign on loan in 2021 before Enzo Fernandez put the game to bed with seconds left on the clock.
Palace opened the scoring in sensational style at Selhurst Park with Jefferson Lerma opening his account for the Eagles following his summer move. The midfielder dispossessed Moises Caicedo from just outside the Chelsea penalty area before smashing a sensational strike into the top corner and beyond the reach of Djordje Petrovic in the 30th minute.
The Blues struggled to respond immediately but emerged from the half-time break with a new-found energy and hit back just two minutes after the restart through Conor Gallagher, diverting a smart half-volley into the top corner after good work down the right by Malo Gusto.
The midfielder then fired a fierce strike into the far corner in the 91st minute following good work by Cole Palmer down the right. Fernandez then put the game to bed just three minutes later after a counter-attack saw the Argentina international lift a neat finish into the roof of the net from close range. Express Sport takes a look at five key talking points from the match…
Jackson experiment has repercussions
With Nicolas Jackson being deployed as a winger, Palmer was shifted into more central areas and deployed as a makeshift striker in the first half. However, the Blues paid the price for the tactical switch as their most creative outlet was unable to get on the ball and make his mark on the game. The introduction of Christopher Nkunku allowed Palmer to drift back out into more natural territory on the right wing and he looked far more at home in the role, grabbing two assists as a result.
Reliable Gallagher shows his worth
Chelsea’s decision to try and offload Gallagher in the January transfer window looks even more baffling with every passing week. The England international has played a key role in Pochettino’s system this season with his relentless pressing and desire to be a presence at both ends of the pitch. Gallagher’s neat finishes against Palace highlighted why the Blues would be short-sighted to overlook him, though the midfielder can do very little more to earn a new deal with his boyhood side.
Following the half-time break, both teams were made to wait out on the pitch as referee Michael Oliver did not emerge from the tunnel. Technical difficulties saw the second half delayed for around five minutes, with Sky Sports revealing the referee’s wrap-around microphone had broken – meaning that communication had gone down between the officials. Different batteries and pieces of kit were used to deal with the matter, with Oliver receiving a cheer from both sides when he made his way onto the pitch.
Gusto shines down the right
Gusto has been in flying form for Chelsea over the past few months and he is one of only a few players in Pochettino’s side that is justifying his price tag at present. The former Lyon fullback provided the Blues with boundless energy down the right, driving the ball forward and delivering several inviting crosses – with one being steered home by Gallagher. With Reece James ruled out for another few months, Gusto could become one of the first names on the Chelsea team sheet in the meantime and present Pochettino with a long-term selection headache.
Chelsea played with zip, energy and purpose against Aston Villa last week… without Silva. The Brazilian international then returned to the Blues backline against Palace, and the team went back to their former days of lacking pace when building out from the back. Although the 39-year-old has a wealth of experience, he could be holding his side back from playing the style of football which Pochettino is trying to implement at Stamford Bridge. Silva was replaced in the 60th minute by Levi Colwill after appearing to pull a muscle blocking a shot.