Five things that made us think after Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace
1) Palace are leading rise of counter-(attacking) culture
A characteristically moody post-match Jose Mourinho insisted that in any discussion of this match, Crystal Palace deserved to be mentioned first, ahead of any talk about refereeing decisions or his own team's performance (which he then spoke about at length). "The most important thing," he said, "is Crystal Palace." OK then.
The Eagles landed at Stamford Bridge as statistically the Premier League's best away side in 2015, and their subsequent display showed why that is. A committed, disciplined but nonetheless forward-thinking team performance was down to an efficient shift put in by every player (well, almost every player – we'll come onto that later).
There were long balls, a deep backline and pacy sprints up the pitch to relieve pressure, but in the 80-odd minutes before the match ended with a series of desperate, flying blocks from the visitors, they weren't playing anti-football, or even particularly defensive football; indeed, their midfielders looked threatening on virtually every break.
This was no smash 'n' grab, either: Chelsea may have had more shots, thanks largely to that late flurry, but Palace had the best chance of the first half through Yohan Cabaye (who aimed tamely at Thibaut Courtois), won as many corners and put in as many crosses as their hosts across the whole match.
Generally, though, Palace sat deeper and let Chelsea's players – even Gary Cahill – take pot shots from distance, which in the first half especially, they did gladly... and badly.
In fact, Palace were so content to let Chelsea have the ball that of the many times they won it from Mourinho's men, only once in the entire match did they win it in the hosts' half.
Just eight of the first 38 Premier League fixtures this season have ended in home wins. That's 21%, and given the average is usually around 45%, that is pretty extraordinary. The reason – as noted this week by the perspicacious Danny Higginbotham – is that more teams, from the top of the league to its murky depths, are embracing the counter-attack as a Plan A tactic. Alan Pardew's men executed it perfectly.
No wonder Mourinho was impressed.