Crystal Palace vs Chelsea match report: Oscar and Cesc Fabregas strike to maintain Chelsea's unbeaten record

Crystal Palace 1 Chelsea 2: Spaniard slots home winner in fiery game which saw a red card for both sides

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Chelsea may not have had Diego Costa, but they suffered no repeat of last season’s defeat at Selhurst Park. The difference could be seen in Jose Mourinho’s colourful reaction, even if he would only write the words rather than say them.

Back in March, after Tony Pulis’s Palace had inflicted a 1-0 defeat which badly damaged Chelsea’s title challenge, the Portuguese was asked what they were missing. He wrote “balls” on a piece of paper. This time, asked why they won, he wrote “big balls”.

It was difficult to dispute. This was a testosterone-filled game featuring an awful lot of aggression and red cards for Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill – but also, crucially, a 2-1 Chelsea victory.

They showed physicality but also plenty of finesse. That could be seen in the beautifully flighted delivery of Oscar’s opening goal, and then the Brazilian’s divine exchange with Cesc Fabregas to enable the Spanish midfielder to score the second.

 

The lively Fraizer Campbell gave Chelsea a few nerves with a late strike to make it 2-1, but by then, Mourinho’s team had more than shown their mettle.

“I said yesterday, in [Palace’s] game [physicality], they are better than us,” Mourinho stated. “If we come here and don’t impose our game, we have no chance. From minute one to 94, we imposed our game. We had the ball. We were always in control.”

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That is mostly, but not completely, true. Palace started better and could have had three in the opening minutes. Yannick Bolasie was giving Branislav Ivanovic plenty of problems, but Campbell was giving Gary Cahill even more, though he squandered a series of chances he had done so well to create.

Then Damien Delaney took down Willian, which allowed Oscar to curl an exceptional free-kick into the far corner of the net. Chelsea were 1-0 up but not completely on top. Without Costa, they were playing a little further back, and Palace were all too willing to try to intimidate Loïc Rémy, mostly through Delaney and Mile Jedinak.

That led to a few meaty challenges, and what seemed an element of retribution from Azpilicueta. Even so, there was no excuse for his wild challenge on Jedinak, which brought a deserved red card on 40 minutes. Fabregas might have been lucky to stay on the field after a flare-up with Campbell, but Delaney could have no complaints moments later after receiving a second yellow card for attempting to haul back Rémy.

delaney.jpgChelsea soon got their second goal, which left Mourinho purring. “My team had a fantastic performance,” he said. “From minute one we did what we wanted to do, have the ball, use the ball and control the game. The second goal was a scandal. It is unbelievably good!”

That was hard to dispute. Fabregas exchanged passes with Eden Hazard and Oscar before Rémy’s peeling run allowed the Spanish midfielder to step forward and slot the ball past Julian Speroni.

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Azpilicueta was shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Jedinak

Palace could have few complaints, but that didn’t stop Neil Warnock offering some criticism of referee Craig Pawson for not booking John Terry for a similar foul to Delaney’s, even if the Palace manager did not exactly absolve his Irish centre-half: “Silly thing to do, to give the referee a decision to make. Even if the team [Chelsea] surrounded the ref. I thought they influenced him at times today, but he’s young. Inexperience, I guess. If that was my player, I thought John Terry would have been booked for definite. I thought the ref left a lot to be desired.”

Substitute Wilfried Zaha provided the cross for Campbell to score, but it was too little, too late.

Line-ups:

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Kelly, Hangeland, Delaney, Ward; Puncheon (Zaha, 69), McArthur (Guedioura, 69), Jedinak, Ledley (Mariappa, 58), Bolasie; Campbell.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian (Filipe Luis, 42), Oscar, Hazard (Salah, 86); Rémy (Drogba, 90).

Referee: Craig Pawson.

Man of the match: Oscar (Chelsea)

Match rating: 7/10

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