Last-gasp penalty by Noni sees Chelsea down plucky Palace 2-1 at the Bridge
By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 2 v Crystal Palace 1
Noni scored the vital winning goal, a penalty, with a minute remaining to down impressive Crystal Palace 2-1 tonight at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues were excellent on the counter attack, less impressive when they stopped going forward.
This allowed Palace to execute their game plan and it worked up until the last two minutes of the game.
They equalised on the stroke of half time through Michael Olise and looked set for a well-earned point until Eberechi Eze fell foul to VAR when he clipped Noni just inside the penalty area.
Chelsea celebrated as if they had won the Premier League while crestfallen Eagles will be annoyed and frustrated they leave pointless from west London.
Palace started off well, forcing the home side back.
A great run on the right by Nathaniel Clyne bamboozled Levi Colwill into giving away a free kick on the edge of his penalty area.
Up stepped Eberechi Eze who curled the ball around the wall, but into the side-netting.
Joachim Andersen attempted a speculative effort on six minutes, but was wide of Djordje Petrovic's right post.
A quick counter-attack by the Blues almost reaped dividends – their first of the game when Ian Maatsen broke through the Palace rearguard, he poked the ball, fed by Mykhailo Mudryk, past Dean Henderson but Tyrick Mitchell was able to get back and clear the ball before it crossed the line.
This was quickly followed by the opening goal, when yet another counter saw palace opened up on their left and Mali Gusto fed the ball square where an unmarked Mudryk side-footed home from eight yards.
Another excellent positive passing move almost saw Mudryk nab his second, on 22 minutes, but this time Henderson was alert enough to block the effort.
Chelsea should have doubled their led on 26 minutes, when another break saw Nicolas Jackson feed Christopher Nkunku, who, when he was just about to let fly, was challenged from behind by Chris Richards.
Nkunku hit the deck, the Chelsea fans demanded a spot kick but referee Michael Salisbury ignored the plea.
Another save by Henderson, this time from Maatsen on 33 minutes kept the visitors in the game – just.
As the clock ticked in to the first of the two added minutes, the Eagles struck.
It was simplicity itself.
The ball was won I the final third on the left. A cross-field ball was whipped into Michael Olise – who was unmarked. He chested the ball down and smacked home a smart left-footer just inside Petrovic's left post.
It was a terrible goal to concede so close to the whistle but there were instances in the final part of the half, where the Blues lost concentration and they were rightly punished.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Just as in the early phase of the first half, the eagles dominated the exchanges in the second – Eze and Olise causing Chelsea's midfield some anxious moments.
Jean-Philippe Mateta showed excellent pace and power on the right, and he forced Petrovic into a low save to his left post.
Pochettino attempted to counter this dominance by bringing on centre-back Thiago Silva and midfielder Romeo Lavia – off went Colwill and Maatsen.
Those replacements failed to alter the course of the game with Palace remaining in charge.
So on came more players – this time, Armando Broja and Noni for Nkunku and Mudryk – both on 71 minutes.
Quite how Jackson failed to score three minutes later is anyone's guess. He beat the offside trap, latched onto a Gallagher through ball and with just a one on one with Henderson to go, he pushed the ball wide of the goalkeeper, but also wide of the goal.
But two minutes later Jackson had pierced the net. It was a surprise to all as the striker pinged home a volley that daisy-cutter past Henderson's near post.
But VAR rightly intervened and adjudged that the striker was offside.
The frustration led to some handbags between Mitchell and Noni at the sideline and both got yellow cards.
Palace were still dangerous on the break and Petrovic again came to the home side's aid, thwarting Olise on 82 minutes.
Broja showed great composure to latch onto a long ball by Silva, bring it down properly and let fly with a left-footer. But it was also wide of goal.
There was a shout for a Chelsea penalty when Noni hit the deck on 85 minutes.
The referee played on but VAR intervened.
It asked Salisbury to look at the monitor where Noni and Eze clashed on thee edge of the area.
It was as clear as day that it was a spot kick to everyone bar the official in the stadium and he changed his mind and awarded the penalty.
Up stepped Noni and he side-footed the ball home, sending Henderson the wrong way in the process.
Benoit Badiashile limped off the pitch to be replaced by U21 skipper Alfie Gilchrist for his debut.
Teams: Chelsea: Petrovic, Gusto, Disasi, Badiashile, Colwill, Caicedo, Gallagher, Maatsen, Nkunku, Mudryk, Jackson
Subs: Bettinelli, Bergstrom, Thiago, Gilchrist, Lavia, Matos, Castledine, Madueke, Broja
Palace: Henderson, Mitchell, Guehi, Olise, Lerma, Ayew, Eze, Mateta, Andersen, Clyne, Richards
Subs: Matthews, Tomkins, De Oliviera, Schlupp, Hughes, Ahamada, Riedewald, Adaramola, Ozoh
Referee: Michael Salisbury