This season, I am taking a walk down memory lane back through my 24 years and over 600 games of watching Palace.
For each home game, I am reflecting on the highs and lows that I have seen against our opposition. Some clubs, I have a rich history of great Palace moments, and for others, there has been limited encounters but I will try to capture the emotion, context and excitement of the Palace life.
I hate Chelsea. At University, I lived with four Chelsea fans and resented their moaning, their arrogance, their armchair victories, their “Captain, Leader, Legend, Racist, Thug” and their attitude towards referees. They watched football in a different world to me and I hated it. At the time, we were so far behind and fighting for the very existence of the club that the idea of ever beating them seemed like a distant dream.
In terms of my record against them, Chelsea is a strange one. Overall, I’ve got a terrible tally of goals and points versus the Blues but there’s three wins that could easily be in my top ten all time Palace games. So hard is it to choose, that I’m going to cheat. Instead, I’m going to compare the three matches I’ve seen against them that we haven’t lost.
And the beauty of all three of the victories that I have seen is that, despite earning the right to play on the same pitch as the West London side, a win over them seemed as unlikely as ever.
Palace…1 (John Terry own goal)
29th March 2014, Premier League
First up, in our first season back in the Premier League, Tony Pulis had taken us from relegation certainties to relegation candidates but we were slipping. After a good run in February, we had drawn two and lost three of our previous five games, including a devastating last minute defeat at Newcastle the week before. Then came Chelsea, who were going for the title. Chelsea who were resurgent under Jose Mourinho. Chelsea who had won eleven of their previous fourteen games. Chelsea who had beaten Arsenal 6-0 the week before.
Prior to the Chelsea game, do you know what our record against the top nine was that season?
Drawn 1 (0-0 v Everton)
The fact we beat them was beautiful. The fact that John Terry was scoring for Palace was even better. And the fact that I could post a Facebook video of the Holmesdale singing about it to some people who I hadn’t spoken to for a few years since University was perhaps a bit immature and unnecessary but it didn’t half feel good!
Palace…2 (Zaha, Benteke)
1st April 2017, Premier League
Next up, was at the Bridge in 2017. Palace had finally had a couple of narrow victories after some pitiful performances through December, January and February. But the beauty of them was that we could go to the Champions elect and enjoy the day. A pizza and prosecco on the Kings Road was had pre-match and went against everything I knew about football. But it was fun. It was a celebration of no longer getting pints of best bitter in working mans clubs or Wetherspoons in Burnley, Doncaster, Barnsley or Blackpool. It was about how far we’d come.
Walking to the ground, I tweeted a tongue in cheek message about Damian Delaney bullying Diego Costa again – but that was the post-meal limoncello talking. At the game, reality took over. Chelsea were leading after just five minutes. Well, they were eleven points clear at the top of the league. And they were unbeaten at home all season. It was no surprise. Never mind.
But then. Oh then. Oh Palace. Oh what a moment.
Six minutes later, we were still wildly celebrating Wilfried Zaha’s excellent equaliser when we broke away again for Christian Benteke to beautifully lob the keeper and put us ahead. We bundled into a pile of bodies, my Dad’s glasses went flying, my friend’s glasses went flying and suddenly, I found myself hugging Sasa Curcic, who I hadn’t realised was stood behind me. What a moment! What a moment! What a moment! It won’t last I remember thinking – so just enjoy the moment. But it did last. It lasted until ninety minutes, and then 91, and 92, all the way up to the 100th minute when the referee finally ended the game and we could go wild once more.
Palace…2 (own goal, Zaha)
14th October 2017, Premier League
Could those two ever be topped? I wouldn’t have believed it a year ago but then there was magic. A new low was needed to create a new high! It’s hard to remember just how hopeless it felt.
0-3, 0-1, 0-2, 0-1, 0-1, 0-5, 0-4
Seven games, zero goals, zero points, zeventeen conceded. I’d even tried to tempt that conning evil that we call fate into giving us a goal by promising to slash the price of my book to 99p when we finally scored – but that had been three games previous with no luck to speak of – and barely even a shot.
So what a time to play the current Champions of England. When would our misery end? It wasn’t supposed to be that day! But again, against all the odds, against Chelsea, it was that day.
Zaha returned from injury; Julian Speroni was back between the sticks. Magic returned to Selhurst. The match card says we scored after eleven minutes but for Palace fans it had been 731 minutes – or nearly six months if you include the summer break. The relief of that moment. Oh the relief – it was glorious. It was an own goal – we hadn’t done it alone but we’d scored. But it wouldn’t last? Surely, it couldn’t last? This time, I was right. Chelsea equalised soon after. But who cares? We had a goal!
Then, just before half time, we had another – all by ourselves this time. Made in South London. Mamadou Sakho showed some determination but Zaha showed class. Initially, to take it around two defenders with his first touch and then to slot it home with his second, and this time – it would last. Finally, we had something to cheer and for many, with Wilf and Jules back, we had some belief that we could survive with the worst ever start to a Premier League campaign.
So no, for Chelsea, and I promise it is only for Chelsea, I don’t have a favourite moment or match. I refuse to choose!
3rd January 2016, Premier League
If Chelsea were the most difficult side to pick my favourite victory against, picking my worst was easy. The reason, simple. It’s the only time that I’ve seen us play against them and thought we had a chance!
Before the game, in January 2016, we were sitting comfortably in the league and dreaming of a European tour. We knew a win would take us back above Manchester United and up into fifth place. Meanwhile, Chelsea were just three points above the drop zone! Not to mention, we’d had a fairly straight forward 2-1 win at the Bridge earlier in the season, before it became so fashionable that everyone started to do it!
In reality, we were battered from start to finish, all over the pitch. The only comical moment was at 0-2 when I pointed out the score board to my mates.
“Hang on, it’s only 2-0 isn’t it?” I enquired. The score board was suggesting that it was already three and, being a New Year’s game with work the next day, I was sure that I hadn’t drunk enough to forget a goal! Anyway, no sooner had we all exchanged confused looks with each other, Diego Costa scored a third for the away side and meant that whoever was in charge of the jumbotron could leave the score board exactly as it was.
My Personal Record of Live Matches Against Chelsea
- Played 10
- Won 3
- Drawn 0
- Lost 7
- Scored 8
- Conceded 18
- Home 7
- Away 3
Palace…1 Chelsea…2 (Friendly, 2003) – Freedman
Palace…0 Chelsea…2 (Premier League, 2004)
Chelsea…4 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2005) – Riihilahti
Palace…0 Chelsea…1 (Friendly, 2010)
Palace…1 Chelsea…0 (Premier League, 2014) – Own Goal (Terry)
Palace…0 Chelsea…3 (Premier League, 2016)
Palace…0 Chelsea…1 (Premier League, 2016)
Chelsea…1 Palace…2 (Premier League, 2017) – Zaha, Benteke
Palace…2 Chelsea…1 (Premier League, 2017) – Own goal, Zaha
Chelsea…3 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2018) – Townsend