We are halfway through the much-hyped Derby Weekend and it has certainly not disappointed.
Odsonne Edouard’s opener for Palace in the 7th minute of the match ensured that Chelsea started the derby in the worst possible fashion.
New signing Aubameyang made sure that parity was restored in the 38th minute as he swivelled and finished the ball neatly after Thiago Silva had headed down Reece James‘ long ball.
The match, although 1-1, never looked like ending with the same score line. Palace talisman Zaha’s sizzling shot was saved by Kepa with 20 minutes to go as both sides continued to attack.
And then the inevitable happened. Conor Gallagher, who played at Selhurst Park last season on loan from Chelsea, scored against Palace to secure a victory for the Blues.
Chelsea was deserved winner, with an xG of 1.14 as compared to Palace’s 0.44.
A huge part of this was down to Wilfried Zaha’s inability to perform up to his usual lofty standards.
Deployed on the left wing initially, the player from Ivory Coast could rarely get past Reece James.
James had a particularly good game, making 9 recoveries, 1 interception and winning 5 out of 8 duals.
This caused manager Patrick Vieira to switch Zaha on the right side of the pitch, but to no avail, as Chilwell was similarly adept at keeping Zaha out.
Keeping Zaha at bay is no easy task. James himself praised the winger in 2020, naming him the toughest player he has played against.
“He’s a very good player. You can’t really pinpoint one thing to nullify him from the game because you don’t know what he’s going to do”, Reece said about Zaha.
Understandably happy with his performance, James was quick to point out this superiority in his customary post-match tweet.
The right-back tweeted a padlock emoji along with a picture of him winning a duel against the Palace man.
While it was not explicitly stated, the lock emoji does appear to be a dig at Zaha’s performance and signifies how James kept his opponent locked up, making sure he isn’t able to affect the game in a meaningful manner.
Zaha picked up on this and reacted with a story on Instagram, which has since been deleted.
“Clouts a hell of a drug, lol, but yall be safe,” the story read.
Zaha’s story was also not explicitly aimed at his counterpart. But given the timing of the story and the context, it can be said that it was meant for James.
He accused James of wanting more influence, power and pull on social media (via the word clout) and accused him of putting out a story to gain more followers.
Given his subdued performance, Zaha could have and perhaps should have let the tweet pass without reacting to it. The fact that he did not, earned him some not-so-pleasant comments on Twitter.
Zaha would be itching to get back on the pitch and shut the haters down. His next game against Leeds provides him with an opportunity to do just that.
As for James, his performance was spectacular and supporters were quick to draw comparisons with fellow England right-back Trent, who had another not-so-good game.
With the World Cup approaching fast, James would be hoping he can continue this form till the cup and beyond.