Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has admitted his team missed talisman right wing-back Victor Moses after the Premier League leaders succumbed to a shock 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Cesc Fabregas put the Blues ahead after five minutes but on-form Ivory Coast winger Wilfred Zaha and Belgium striker Christian Benteke replied quickly to help the Eagles pick up maximum points to send Chelsea to their first defeat at home since September 16 last year.
Nigeria forward Moses, who has been instrumental in Chelsea’s charge to the Premier League title after slotting into a defensive role in Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, missed Saturday’s encounter due to injury.
The 26-year-old South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner could not feature in Nigeria’s friendly clash against Senegal in London on March 23 due to the injury. The game ended 1-1.
And Italian manager Conte, who rued his team’s failure to extend their lead at the top of the table, said they missed Moses’ services against Crystal Palace.
The former Italy coach was forced to adopt a 3-5-2 formation for the game in which Zaha ran the show.
“Victor Moses is an important player because he’s having a great season, but Pedro played very well in that wing-back position,” the former Juventus midfielder and manager told Chelsea’s official website.
“As wingers, they are very offensive and that showed we wanted to play our football. Pedro had a very good game.”
However, former Manchester United star Phil Neville criticised Conte’s tactics in the game as he emphasised the importance of Moses to the London giants’ title hopes.
Neville believes the tactical change from Conte to a 3-5-2 failed to work for his side.
“The change of tactics and the absence of some players didn’t work as planned by coach Antonio Conte,” Daily Star quoted the former England defender as saying on Sunday.
“Victor Moses was badly missed, they looked unconvincing and disorganised at the back without Moses.”
The former Valencia coach added, “Wilfried Zaha had a field day running at the full backs of Chelsea, he had little to do defensively because there was no player opening the game up like Moses would have done for Chelsea.
”Willian brought a bit of spark to the attack when he was introduced but at that time Crystal Palace were all about protecting their 2-1 lead which they did till the end of the game.”