Chelsea 2 Crystal Palace 1 match report: Ramires saves Blues from famous Palace coup

Chelsea recover from defeat to Stoke last week to record nervy victory over valiant Palace

Stamford Bridge

While statistically nothing like the goalfest at the Etihad, which took Manchester City briefly ahead of Chelsea in the table, this was an equally open game between two sides supposed to be a world apart in ambition and ability. As the result, uncertain until the end, was also a home win, Jose Mourinho’s side went second, two points behind Arsenal, who they play a week tomorrow.

It seemed impossible that the second half could remain scoreless as the ball fizzed from end to end, above all in a manic last few minutes. But Palace, invigorated under their new manager Tony Pulis, could not force an equaliser and Chelsea, well below their best, wasted the chances to apply a flattering gloss to the scoreline.

So all the goals came before the interval, Fernando Torres and Marouane Chamakh balancing things out before Ramires struck what proved to be a winner. Whereas Chamakh’s effort was his third in successive games, Torres still has only two in the League and together with Demba Ba, who came on towards the end, and Samuel Eto’o, who did not, Chelsea’s £62 million strikers have mustered a mere five between them.

FOLLOW ALL OF SUNDAY'S NEWS AND UPDATES HERE

Palace have tightened up in defence since Fulham put four past them at Selhurst Park, prompting Ian Holloway’s exit. Apart from delayed reactions when Torres nipped past them to score, the journeymen Danny Gabbidon and Damien Delaney handled themselves well and near the end Julian Speroni pulled off some heroic saves.

Palace, who have not won here since 1982, lost the powerful South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi in the first quarter of the game, but young Stuart O’Keefe proved a worthy replacement as the visiting midfield fought hard to prevent Eden Hazard and Willian, who was given the central midfield role behind Torres, ever taking complete control.     

“The result could have been 5-1 or 2-2,” Mourinho said, without admitting that the latter had been far more likely. Pulis could only see positives in Palace’s effort and performance. “We were a little bit on the back-foot in the first half but in the second half we pushed up and to be still in the game in the 94th minute was a credit to us,” he said.

Chelsea having conceded nine times as many goals as yesterday’s opponents in the last five games (nine against one) was one of the season’s more unlikely statistics, which was terminated when they took the lead after a dull opening quarter of an hour. Speroni only managed to push Willian’s drive onto a post and his defenders let him down in being far slower to follow in than Torres, who was there first to collect a tap-in.

The game was all the better for it, especially when Palace equalised. Chelsea had just seemed to be finding their rhythm, as Juan Mata’s clever flick allowed the rampaging Branislav Ivanovic to drive a shot just past the far post, and Michael Essien shot wide from outside the penalty area.

Just before the half-hour, however, the visitors produced a fine move across the width of the field, begun by Chamakh, who was then in position to finish it after Jason Puncheon had fed Joel Ward on the left for a low cross. Chamakh’s effort may have been slightly mishit but was still good enough to beat Petr Cech.

If that ensured that Chelsea would not improve on a poor League record of only one clean sheet since September, they did have the lead back within five minutes. Hazard had the better of Adrian Mariappa, not for the first or last time, and cut the ball back for Ramires to hit fiercely and with curl on it, Torres doing his bit by ducking out of the way.

The second half was played at a furious pace, and it was Palace who forced all the chances until the last 10 minutes. Cameron Jerome shot over the bar, Puncheon’s shot on a classic counter-attack was beaten away by Cech and then his free-kick after Essien’s foul led to a header by Delaney, clutched gratefully by the goalkeeper. With the vociferous visiting supporters behind Cech’s goal refusing to lose hope, Yannick Bolasie, on as a substitute, could not direct his header low enough and then Chelsea somehow survived an astonishing scramble.

Cech saved low down from O’Keefe, Ivanovic bravely blocked the midfielder’s follow-up and from the subsequent corner Delaney’s header slid only just wide of the near post. Chelsea had been attacking too, but without threatening until the last few minutes. After Oscar forced the ball forward, Ramires had only to roll it square to one of two colleagues, but allowed Speroni to parry. The goalkeeper then brought off an astonishing double save from André Schürrle and Ba.

Mourinho has said it would be “unacceptable” to finish the season without a trophy but his side will have to be sharper than this, starting in the Capital One Cup at  Sunderland this week. 

Line-ups:

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Essien; Mata (Oscar, 61), Willian (Schürrle, 80), Hazard; Torres (Ba, 83).

Crystal Palace  (4-4-1-1): Speroni; Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward; Bannan (Bolasie, 50), Dikgacoi(O’Keefe, 24), Jedinak, Puncheon; Chamakh (Gayle, 88); Jerome.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Hazard (Chelsea)

Match rating: 7/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone