Chelsea get top four hopes back on track with narrow victory over unlucky Crystal Palace

Chelsea 2 Crystal Palace 1: Chelsea have closed the gap on fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur to just two points after a narrow victory over Palace

Nick Szczepanik
Stamford Bridge
Saturday 10 March 2018 20:43
Comments
Willian scored Chelsea's opening goal
Willian scored Chelsea's opening goal

Crystal Palace proved to be the ideal visitors for Chelsea ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League round of 16 second leg in Barcelona. Hit by injuries and always prepared to shoot themselves in the foot, Palace fought hard but the unlucky Martin Kelly twice got the final touch as Chelsea goals, the first credited to Willian, the second a clear own goal, went into the visitors’ net.

A late goal for Palace by Patrick van Aanholt created by substitute Wilfried Zaha gave a hint of better things ahead now that Zaha is fit again, but it was too little and, to tell the truth, distorted the score in a game that Chelsea should have made safe much earlier.

Still, they will be happy to have beaten a club rival who have been a thorn in their side in recent seasons, having won their previous two encounters and won on their past two visits to Stamford Bridge. But they have now gone seven games without a win and remain in the relegation places.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had given warning before the match that Palace could prove to be dangerous opponents, and in the early stages of the first half it seemed he was correct. For every Chelsea chance, there was one created by the men from south of the Thames.

After three minutes Olivier Giroud glanced a header over the crossbar from a cross by Davide Zappacosta on the right. But Palace made and missed an even clearer opening when Christian Benteke moved into space at the far post as a corner came over from the left. Unfortunately the Belgium striker could not time his jump correctly and nodded the ball harmlessly up in the air for Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to collect with ease.

Play switched to the other end and it was Giroud once more, flicking a foot at a swerving shot from N’Golo Kante. It caused Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to take his eye of the ball and he was fortunate that his body was behind the shot even if his hands were nowhere near. Palace, though, came again and Andros Townsend met a bouncing ball on the volley, his arcing shot clearing Courtois but also the crossbar, although it was a near thing.

Martin Kelly turned the ball into his own net

However, Chelsea began to dominate, with Zappacosta doing more or less as he chose down Chelsea’s right, and Willian firing in a series of shots as Palace conceded space. Most of the Brazilian’s efforts were comfortable for Hennessey, but after 25 minutes he fired one in that left the Palace keeper powerless.

He received the ball on the left, five yards from the touchline, and cut in past two covering players before shooting right-footed from 25 yards. Hennessey might have had it, but the slightest of deflections off Kelly sent it past him and in off the inside of his near post.

Seven minutes later it was 2-0 and Kelly had the final touch again, but this time far more decisively. The move deserved a more elegant finish as the ball sped from Cesc Fabregas out to Marcos Alonso on the left, and then infield towards Willian. His dummy allowed Eden Hazard to take possession and find Zappacosta. Then it got messy. Kelly did well to block the wing-back’s shot but the ball ricocheted back off Hennessey’s head and in off the hapless Kelly.

Palace were in trouble. Giroud’s header was hacked off the line, Alonso’s volley was blocked for a corner and only a desperate goal-line block by James Tomkins prevented Giroud’s shot from Hazard’s pass making it 3-0.

Patrick van Aanholt gave Palace hope

Roy Hodgson sent Wilfried Zaha on at half-time in place of the ineffective Benteke, and Palace should have scored within seconds of the restart. Zaha smuggled the ball away from Zappacosta and Alexander Sorloth was through with only Courtois to beat. The £9 milllion January signing from Mitdjylland managed that but his shot smacked back off the post.

Chelsea nearly made Palace pay for that piece of wastefulness when Willian ran onto a low cross from the left but hit his shot straight at Tomkins, and Hennessey saved from Hazard’s shot and Willian’s free kick before Giroud’s first-time shot from Alonso’s low cross hit the upright.

Zaha’s arrival had given Palace belief that they could score but also drawn them forward, leaving spaces that Chelsea were keen to exploit. Sorloth had a ‘goal’ disallowed for a raised foot by Jairo Riedewald before van Aanholt pulled a goal back with a low shot from Zaha’s pass.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in