Roy Hodgson struggled to find positives after Chelsea scored twice in stoppage time to inflict a 3-1 home loss on his Crystal Palace team.
Conor Gallagher, who spent the 2021-22 season on loan with the Eagles, struck twice to complete the comeback, becoming the first Chelsea player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since he did precisely the same at Selhurst Park in October 2022.
Beleaguered boss Hodgson, whose side are once again mired in an injury crisis and remain just five points clear of the relegation zone, initially found it difficult to discuss the brighter elements of Monday’s contest.
Hodgson said: “I’m not really in the mood if I’m being brutally honest of (highlighting) positives and trying to find things to say that would cheer me up, because I don’t know what could be said that would cheer me up.
“What can I say that will cheer the players up? I could possibly say, well, with the players we’ve got coming back and these guys doing so well, it bodes well for the future with the 14 games we have left.
“But of course we still don’t know when (Michael) Olise, (Eberechi) Eze will be back, so we might be battling through like we’ve done tonight for a few more games before we can look at a team which will threaten the opposition a bit more than we did today.”
As has been par for the Palace course in recent weeks, before kick-off fans raised banners protesting about the direction of their club, with one reading “supporters ignored and taken for granted”.
A lacklustre start from Mauricio Pochettino’s men allowed the hosts to take the lead after 30 minutes through Jefferson Lerma’s screamer, but it was cancelled out less than two minutes after the break by Gallagher, his first of the campaign.
Hodgson did not feel a lengthy delay to sort out a technical issue with the referee’s equipment had an impact on the equaliser, pointing out it had equally affected both sides.
Just as it seemed Hodgson’s side – who rank below only Sheffield United in goals conceded in the last 15 minutes of the second half of Premier League matches – seemed like they would walk away with a point, Gallagher swept Chelsea into the top half of the table.
Hodgson felt his side might have had a chance to level things until, three minutes later, Enzo Fernandez ended any doubt about the outcome.
Pochettino, meanwhile, was pleased to secure all three points ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Manchester City and the Carabao Cup final later this month, but felt there was plenty of room to improve.
He said: “I think he (Gallagher) is a player that shows great commitment to the team, always tries to compensate in every situation, in offensive and defensive situations.
Conor Gallagher became the first @ChelseaFC player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since…
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 12, 2024
“It is priceless to have a player like him. I’m so happy for him and so happy for the team, it’s a victory, we needed the three points.
“I think if you ask me if I am really happy about the performance, I’m 50-50, because we cannot approach the game and start the game the way that we started.
“That is the consistency we need to build. We need to be more consistent, we need to start the game in a different way.
“But I’m very pleased in the end because we have the three points, and now we have to prepare for Manchester City, that is going to be a good test for us, before the final. I think we are going to prepare in a very good way.”