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Palace coup shoots down stunned Chelsea

Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois is left on the deck as Crystal Palace players wheel away to celebrate on Saturday, August 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois is left on the deck as Crystal Palace players wheel away to celebrate on Saturday, August 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

LONDON, August 29- Joel Ward proved the unlikely match-winner as Crystal Palace produced one of the shocks of the season to win 2-1 away to Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

It was only the second time in 100 league games under manager Jose Mourinho that Chelsea had lost at their west London home,

This result also meant Chelsea had lost twice in the league this season after being beaten 3-0 away to title rivals Manchester City a fortnight ago and left them with a mere four points from as many games this term.

By contrast, Chelsea lost just three league games in the whole of last season.

Palace took the lead via Bacary Sako before substitute Falcao hauled Chelsea level late on.

But Ward was Palace’s unlikely hero when he headed home two minutes later as the south Londoners won at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1982.

Chelsea, without the suspended John Terry, began slowly but finally found their feet.

After a concerted spell of pressure without ever testing Crystal Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, Pedro came closest to a breakthrough when his shot was deflected just over in the 21st minute.

Willian was off target for Chelsea before Sako forced the first save by either goalkeeper.

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A quick break found Sako, who scored the winner on his debut last week, and his low drive from the angle was kept out by the foot of Thibaut Courtois.

If Sako was presented with no more than a half-chance, then Yohan Cabaye should have taken his clearcut opportunity in the 29th minute.

Wilfried Zaha found space but could only shoot at Courtois from eight yards out.

– Anonymous threat –

Palace manager Alan Pardew’s expression on the touchline said it all and he knew his £12 million ($18.4 million, 16.5 million euros) marquee signing should have handed the visitors the lead.

Chelsea were struggling to find any fluency but a rare attack of note saw them threaten in the 41st minute.

Diego Costa, who was largely anonymous throughout, saw his shot pushed out by McCarthy before Cesc Fabregas’s rebound was also kept out.

Mourinho would have demanded more intensity from his side but Palace once again threatened as the lively Sako crossed but Connor Wickham could not manoeuvre his feet in time to connect.

Sako then forced Courtois into a low save at his near post.

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Chelsea, in a rare foray forward , saw Eden Hazard deflect wide before, from the resulting corner, Gary Cahill’s header was cleared off his own line by Sako.

Then, barely 60 seconds later, Sako was up the other end to open the scoring in the 65th minute.

Yannick Bolasie crossed and the Mali winger, following a fortunate ricochet, struck from eight yards out past Courtois.

Chelsea immediately sent for reinforcements with Falcao thrown on but it could, and should, have been all over in the 73rd minute as Bolasie sliced wide from close range following a Sako cross.

It was miss Palace looked like regretting when Falcao stooped low to head home Pedro’s cross in the 79th minute.

Mourinho urged his players to halt their celebrations to get on with the job in hand of winning the game.

But any hope of that was extinguished two minutes later by Ward. Bolasie’s cross saw Sako set the ball up for Ward to nod in into an empty net as Chelsea slipped eight points behind league leaders Manchester City.

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