LONDON (AP) — Crystal Palace ended its seven-game scoring drought by beating Chelsea 2-1 for its first points in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Palace needed some help after making the worst-ever start to an English top-flight campaign, and its first goal of the season was by an opposition player — Cesar Azpilicueta — in the 11th minute.
Tiemoue Bakayoko equalized for the champions with a header from a corner in the 18th but Palace responded on the stroke of halftime through winger Wilfried Zaha, who was back in the team for the first time since getting injured on the opening weekend.
“I have just said to the players that they really deserve to drink in that victory,” Palace manager Roy Hodgson said, “because we played the champions of England but came off the field today having deserved our victory.”
Chelsea has lost back-to-back games, having been beaten by Manchester City 1-0 before the international break, and has dropped nine points behind first-place City.
Palace, which won at Chelsea in April, had not scored a league goal since May 14 and Patrick van Aanholt’s last-minute strike in the 4-0 win over Hull. Its dismal start to the season was expected to continue against the champions but the return of Zaha galvanized his teammates.
Zaha and fellow winger Andros Townsend tormented the Chelsea defense, and it was Townsend who helped set up the first goal. He got in behind Marcos Alonso and pulled the ball back for Yohan Cabaye, whose attempt to control the ball was interrupted by David Luiz before it ricocheted back off Cabaye and then Azpilicueta to wrong-foot goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“We’re Crystal Palace, we score when we want,” sang the home supporters.
The celebrations were short-lived as Cesc Fabregas sent in a corner. Bakayoko headed the ball into the ground and the net for his first Premier League goal.
Palace’s winner came when Mamadou Sakho beat Willian to the ball and showed composure to find Zaha, who applied the finish.
Right wing back Victor Moses went off early in the second half as a hamstring injury appeared to impede another Chelsea player, after absent pair N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata.
“The performance level today was not up to the standard it should be,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “We played poorly today, for whatever reason.
“We’ve had many international players who have been away but that’s part and parcel of modern football. We need to be ready, we needed to be more lively.”