“That shocked you all, didn’t it…” asked Sam Allardyce, sitting down triumphantly in the Stamford Bridge press room.
His Crystal Palace side are not safe yet, not by a long way, but they are undoubtedly revived under the former England manager.
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke took it in turns to set each other up as the Eagles overturned an early Cesc Fabregas goal at Stamford Bridge in a result that Big Sam admitted “nobody expected.” But while this was a game where Zaha’s display stole the headlines, Allardyce’s defence proved to be just as important. And it was all part of the plan.
“I think our plan was one of the keys to why we’ve won. But the plan can only work when your players play to the best of their abilities, which means the absolute maximum against Chelsea.”
“You taught the plan well. You stick with that in the hope you nullify Chelsea, and then we went a goal down after five minutes. But the response… instead of their heads going down, which is what I saw when I first arrived, I saw a massive response. Determination and will to get back into the game.”
It was not necessarily a plan of incredible cunning. It relied on limited players putting their bodies on the line in defence, being in the right place and following instructions to the letter. Once Zaha and Benteke had done their part at the other end, it was over to the defence, really, but there is no denying that the Eagles would not have held out for this result under Alan Pardew.
“The two goals we scored put Chelsea in shock. Their resilience and some of the saves from the goalkeeper were the reason we won it in the end, even if we spurned a couple of really good chances.”
Zaha missed two of those opportunities that Allardyce speaks off. Yet the Ivory Coast winger outperformed the presumptive Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, with a twinkle-toed display at Stamford Bridge that answered the remaining questions – if they even exist still – about his ability.
The 24-year-old has more combined goals and assists this season than Philippe Coutinho, Mesut Ozil or Raheem Sterling. The £25million valuation Tottenham Hotspur have on his head seems way short of his worth in the current market.
Wilfried Zaha’s display answered any remaining questions about his ability (Getty)
And playing as part of a front two at Stamford Bridge he proved his versatility, having shone for much of the campaign on either flank.
“Wilf must feel really good about himself,” added Allardyce.
“It’s about consistent performances at the moment. It was there before he left for the Ivory Coast. He’s continued to show that with them, and he showed it today with his performance and quality of football in possession.”