Football

NOT SO TERRY-FIC

Blues skipper's own-goal blows title race wide open

CRYSTAL PALACE 1

(John Terry 52-og)

CHELSEA 0

There was none of the swagger seen in their last match, a 6-0 demolition of Arsenal.

Neither was there any indication, from their performance, that they were the champions-elect that the spectators at Selhurst Park were watching last night.

Against a team fighting for Premiership survival, Chelsea looked ordinary.

Very ordinary, in fact.

In the end, the Blues fell flat on their faces.

Crystal Palace pulled off a shock 1-0 home win, courtesy of a John Terry own-goal, to strike a massive blow to Chelsea's title hopes.

Palace's limitations were plain to see.

Their approach lacked the subtlety required to break down a team which kept 14 clean sheets prior to this mismatch.

But what do you expect from a Tony Pulis team?

Yet, they made up for it with a tenacity that the visitors probably didn't see coming.

Pulis' game plan centred on the counter-attack. They had the pace, and they had the guts.

A more accomplished side would have punished Jose Mourinho's men much earlier.

Yannick Bolasie's poor first touch in the 26th minute was a shame - although Jason Puncheon's cross was zipping across the box like a missile - because he could have had a clear sight on goal from close range with better contact.

Puncheon himself spurned another excellent chance after the ball pinballed in the area and landed at his feet. Alas, he blasted his shot ridiculously high.

Pulis will be more disappointed his side didn't get the rub of the green when the moment of controversy arrived near the half-hour mark.

Gary Cahill caught one of his player's foot in the penalty box during one of their menacing fast breaks.

But the referee was unmoved by the home team's appeals.

Chelsea survived, by the skin of their teeth, to the halfway mark.

AWRY

But it would turn awry for them anyway, after the break.

It was obvious Palace needed something special to break down Mourinho's men, or a massive injection of luck.

The latter arrived in the 52nd minute, when the unfortunate John Terry headed Joel Ward's cross into his own net.

And Palace got the shock lead that Manchester City and Liverpool were hoping for.

If it was any consolation for Mourinho, the goal sparked his Chelsea team into life. Finally.

The sense of urgency, missing for much of the first half, returned, and the chances started to flow.

With the likes of Eden Hazard, Andre Schuerrle, Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic in the line-up, Chelsea fans had every reason to believe the Blues could turn things around.

Hazard, so often Chelsea's saviour this season, drew a couple of superb saves from Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni.

Terry almost made amends just after the hour mark, but couldn't direct his header under the bar,

Late in the game, Fernando Torres intercepted a poor back-pass but could only lob his shot into the crowd.

But this time, Chelsea, so unlike them, couldn't find the edge to grind out a result.

At the final whistle, Terry looked into the turf forlornly, as if hoping to find the reason for their loss.

Simple, really.

Palace fought harder, and earned their luck.