Match report: Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2

Falcao’s first Chelsea goal was not enough to stop Crystal Palace leaving Stamford Bridge with all three points from this London derby.

The Colombian was brought on midway through the second half after Bakary Sako’s opener, and he found a way past a resolute Palace with a superb header from Pedro’s cross.

There were 10 minutes remaining at that point but the pendulum swung back in the visitors’ favour when Joel Ward headed in from close range almost immediately.

Twice Falcao came close to another response before the final whistle. In injury time Cesc Fabregas was also denied, his shot blocked as so many of our efforts over the course of the game had been. Before the break he and Diego Costa had gone close, and we should have had a penalty when Kurt Zouma’s shirt was pulled in the box.

It means we have lost for only the second time in Jose Mourinho’s 100 Premier League games in charge of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. There is now a two-week break until our next fixture, at Everton after the international break. 

The team bore one change from the win at West Brom last weekend, with Gary Cahill stepping in to replace the suspended John Terry. The skipper’s absence meant Branislav Ivanovic captained the side from the start for the first time in a competitive fixture.

Recent signings Baba Rahman and Kenedy were named in the matchday squad for the first time, and the latter was brought off the bench for his maiden minutes in Chelsea blue, looking lively throughout.

Palace also made one change from the team that beat Aston Villa last time out in the league, bringing in Connor Wickham for Glenn Murray up front. Wilfried Zaha and Ward were the only players to have featured in the Eagles’ midweek extra-time cup win over Shrewsbury.

The Chelsea groundsmen, fulfilling their usual duties for a game at the Bridge, all wore black armbands in memory of Matthew Grimstone, who was tragically killed in the recent Shoreham air disaster. He was a groundsman at Brighton and Hove Albion as well as a semi-professional footballer for Worthing United.

The playing surface was immaculate as always as the game began with Chelsea attacking the Shed. Ivanovic and Willian combined slickly to set up Pedro for his first attempt at goal on his new home ground. It thudded against Scott Dann before it could test Alex McCarthy. The Palace keeper was forced into a first save of the game on 12 minutes, comfortably holding Fabregas’s deflected 25-yarder.

McCarthy wouldn’t have been able to do anything about Pedro’s second shot of the day, fizzed from right to left from the edge of the box, but it flew agonisingly wide. The Spaniard, who also showed his defensive capabilities in the early stages, had picked up from where he left off at The Hawthorns.

Kurt Zouma, rising to meet a Pedro corner, clearly had his shirt pulled by his marker Connor Wickham inside the box, but referee Craig Pawson ignored the Frenchman’s fully justified appeal for a penalty.

At the other end Sako, one of Palace’s summer acquisitions, drew a good stop from Thibaut Courtois after driving in from the left-hand channel on 25 minutes. The visitors had a much better chance before the half-hour was up, but again our keeper had the answer, parrying Yohan Cabaye’s placed effort.

It marked a good spell for Palace, but before long the Blues were back on top. Willian, on his 50th Premier League start, had a volley blocked after a corner fell his way, and then Cesar Azpilicueta was inches away from finding Diego Costa with a teasing left-sided cross.

We came even closer on 42 minutes. It was Diego Costa who led the break from a Palace corner, getting the ball back from Eden Hazard and firing for goal from a tight angle. McCarthy parried that as far as Fabregas, whose follow-up shot was destined for the net until the keeper and Dann intervened to keep it out. The loose ball bounced just beyond Pedro’s reach.

Nemanja Matic was the next man to try his luck after dancing past a number of white-shirted defenders, but his final shot was too close to McCarthy. It was the final action of an entertaining half.

There was no let up as the second period got underway. We survived a couple of early scares in our six-yard box, and a Hazard cutback was taken off Pedro’s toes by Diego Costa in front of the Matthew Harding Stand. Courtois then got down well to deny Sako whose daisy-cutter had skidded off the now-wet turf.

Back the action went down the other end as Hazard slipped in Diego Costa after a driving run. Delaney got across to block his shot behind for a Chelsea corner, one Matic was not far away from heading in. Ivanovic and Zouma were then denied by more resilient defending, the kind of which led Mourinho to praise Palace's spirit after the game. 

Pedro thought he had opened the scoring after fine work from Diego Costa, but yet again a Palace leg got in the way to divert his shot wide. From the resulting corner, Zouma flicked Cahill’s powerful header goalwards but Sako on the line headed it away.

The former Wolves man made an equally telling impact at the other end, giving his side the lead at the second attempt after his first shot was well blocked by Azpilicueta. There were 25 minutes remaining.

Mourinho responded immediately to that setback, introducing Falcao and Kenedy for Willian and Azpilicueta. The Brazilian, making his debut, slotted in at left-back. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was brought on for Matic soon after.

Cahill and Cabaye were booked in quick succession before Hazard fired over. Palace substitute Yannick Bolasie then should have scored his team’s second but sliced Sako’s inviting cross wide.

It looked like that miss would prove costly when we crafted a brilliant equaliser with 10 minutes remaining. Pedro swung over a near-post cross from the right and there was Falcao to thump a diving header past McCarthy. It was a quite fantastic first Chelsea goal for the Colombian.

Unfortunately, the celebrations were cut short when Palace instantly retook the lead. Sako turned Bolasie's cross back into the danger zone allowing Ward to head in unmarked from six yards out.

Falcao tried to get us back on terms for a second time but had a header saved and then steered a volley wide. Kennedy and Fabregas had long shots saved, and the latter came close in injury time but a Palace defender threw himself in front of the ball. It had been a common theme of the afternoon.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic (c), Cahill, Zouma, Azpilicueta (Kenedy 68); Matic (Loftus-Cheek 73), Fabregas; Pedro, Willian (Falcao 66), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs Begovic, Baba, Mikel, Remy.
Scorer Falcao 79
Booked Cahill 71

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Ward, Dann, Delaney (c), Souare; McArthur, Cabaye (Ledley 82); Zaha (Bolasie 55), Puncheon, Sako (Lee 83); Wickham.
Unused subs Hennessey, Mariappa, Mutch, Gayle.
Scorers Sako 65, Ward 81
Booked Cabaye 72

Referee Craig Pawson
Crowd 41,581