“I hope you’re not a bad luck charm,” was one of the texts that I received a few hours after the final whistle on Saturday as I despondently trundled up Brompton Road towards some overpriced hamburger and lobster concoction on the fifth floor of some highfalutin shopping situation. I sure hope so, too. Otherwise we might be in trouble for Wednesday.
I’m fairly confident that I had a perfect, or at least near-perfect record watching Chelsea live and in person heading into the match against Crystal Palace, and given the Blues 13-match home winning streak and almost 100 per cent record against non-top six opposition this season, I was quite confident that my personal record would remain intact, as would Chelsea’s double-digit points lead at the top of the table. Alas.
It was a brilliant day otherwise (half-time queues for refreshments aside) and even the weather held up. Five minutes in, everything was perfect — Cesc Fàbregas finding paydirt after combining with the effervescent Eden Hazard — five minutes later, everything was chaos, the loud smokebombs of the Palace “ultras” adding to the sudden and general unease. Chelsea settled down afterwards but somehow could not find an equalizer, let alone a winner. One of those days.
It may be cliche, but the in-stadium experience is markedly different from the experience of the TV audience. There are things you see and there are things you don’t. I had no idea about the Townsend handball, for example, until much later and the only person whose performance I feel at all qualified to properly judge was Pedro, who played almost the whole match in front of me, first as the emergency right wing-back, then as the emergency left wing-back. Mostly good.
Chelsea’s performance overall seemed mostly good as well. It certainly felt that way. Palace looked dangerous on the break, quick and big in all the right places, and had a couple big chances, but Chelsea seemed well on top and always just a whisker away. Frustrating.
xG map for Chelsea - Crystal Palace. For the first time this season, Chelsea got football'd. But also not a great defensive match. pic.twitter.com/NitBAEqywP— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 1, 2017
In a way, it was one of those days. Zaha’s goal seemed to go through a forest of Blues; Benteke’s goal had at least two lucky bounces; Chelsea lacked the requisite luck or cutting edge at the other end. The match itself was great fun to watch, the Blues always positive and on the front foot, as much by necessity as by choice. While my seats in row 25 of West Lower were mighty excellent, it’s not a position that lends itself well to serious analysis. But it felt that we were a bit hard done by. We “deserved” more than the loss, as much as the concept of “deserving” any sports result is not a concept I generally subscribe to.
And so the lead that was ten is now seven and Wednesday night looms large. Just to be safe, the routine will be changed. The White Horse is out, even though they have a lovely outdoor seating area, and most importantly, Pilsner Urquell on tap. David Luiz shirt is ready for action. I refuse to be even a hint of a bad luck charm. I’d go full kit, if it’d help.
Shoutout to ImNotBlackImBlue and Brittononthewing for stopping by for a quick chat, while I understand that AMLang was somewhere in the area as well. And thanks to the man, myth, legend Jake Cohen for hanging out for a few hours and for facilitating the tickets for my wife and I, and of course to @everydaypundit for the ticket hookup itself. All y’all are the best!
Onwards to Wednesday and three points.