The Stamford Bridge sound system blared the old disco hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” after Chelsea’s hard-fought 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday, but momentum is still sorely lacking for Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
An 89th-minute penalty earned and converted by substitute Noni Madueke unleashed a wave of relief around the stadium where fans have endured a hugely disappointing 2023, despite massive spending on new players by Chelsea’s U.S. owners.
Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise had punished Chelsea at the end of the first half when he took advantage of lax marking to equalise, cancelling out winger Mykhailo Mudryk’s simple finish from a cross by defender Malo Gusto in the 13th minute.
The win was the third in a row at home in the Premier League for Chelsea after victories over Sheffield United and Brighton & Hove Albion, ending a long run of poor home form that stretched back into last season.
But those victories have contrasted with away defeats at Newcastle United, Manchester United, Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, leaving Chelsea firmly stuck in mid-table.
At this stage last season, when Graham Potter was in charge, they sat in the same 10th spot, a far cry from the form that saw them crowned champions of Europe in 2021.
Pochettino said he expected more from his expensively assembled side which featured France striker Christopher Nkunku making his first start and Romeo Lavia who came off the bench for his debut.
“The Premier League is really tough and we need to be consistent,” the Argentine told the BBC.
“The first half of the season has been really up and down and it’s been tough and difficult. But we’re positive and we need to show that we can compete.”
Pochettino praised Madueke for overcoming his disappointment at not featuring much for Chelsea to come off the bench and play a decisive role in the win.
“We are not a charity,” he told reporters. “We are a football club and we need to perform…The first thing is to have the right mentality and to go there on the pitch and to show respect to the history of the club.”
Palace manager Roy Hodgson acknowledged his team’s position – just three points off the relegation area – posed a risk but he took comfort from the performances of his players even if they are now without a win in eight league matches.
“We aren’t winning matches at the moment. If weren’t showing the spirit we are showing, that would be more of a concern,” Hodgson told Amazon Prime. “It hurts that we are near the bottom of the table.”