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Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace: Brave Eagles denied at Stamford Bridge
First half strikes from Fernando Torres and Ramires gave Chelsea all three points today at Stamford Bridge but Tony Pulis’ rejuvenation of the Eagles continues.
Chamakh’s third consecutive Premier League goal saw the big Moroccan deftly slot home but lapses from the Eagles in midfield presented Chelsea with the opportunity to strike at goal, which they took clinically.
David Luiz battles with Marouane Chamakh
With many outside of south London predicting nothing less than a romp for Chelsea, the tone of the game was set early on as Palace were quick to close down their opponents and counter attack at will.
Kagisho Dikgacoi found himself in space after just two minutes when he intercepted an Eden Hazard pass but his weak cross spurned any chance of an early lead.
Less than a minute later Cameron Jerome tricked David Luiz but the move came to nothing as the physical play from Palace, particularly Mile Jedinak and Chamakh, caused problems for the home side throughout the match.
But just as Palace started settling into the game, Chelsea opened up the scoring in the 16th minute through Torres when the Spaniard slotted home from close-range after pouncing on a rebound following Speroni’s save onto the post from Willian.
An injury to Dikgacoi saw him replaced by Stuart O’Keefe and, in one of his best games in his short Palace career, the Peterborough-born midfielder helped to break up Chelsea’s forward play and assist with the Palace attacks.
Jerome again found himself in space in the 28th minute but a weak shot - Palace’s first on target - straight at Peter Cech was not the reward he would have wanted.
Better was to come less than a minute later though as Chamakh slotted home from a Joel Ward floated cross which evaded the Chelsea defence.
Chamakh scored his fourth Premier League goal this season to make it 1-1
But just as Palace had settled again, Jerome was injured in a failed attack and whilst Pulis protested for Chelsea to put the ball out to deal with the injury, his side froze as Ramires curled a right-footed shot from the edge of the box past Speroni to make it 2-1 in the 35th minute.
Palace continued to exploit a lacklustre Chelsea side throughout the second half - at times they had four outfield players in their own half when they were in the attack - and just after a visibly upset Barry Bannan was substituted for Yannick Bolasie early on a dribble out of defence from Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic saw him stopped in his tracks by Jerome, but the big centre forward could only blaze over from 25 yards.
Again Palace caused problems for Chelsea on the counter attack with Puncheon going close after good link-up play with Chamakh and the visitors felt aggrieved that a two-footed, off-the-ground tackle from Michael Essien on Chamakh only earned the Ghanaian a yellow card in the 58th minute.
Palace were more than competing with one of the world’s richest football clubs and their physical dominance, passion and support proved too much for Chelsea at times. Bolasie headed over from Puncheon when he should have at least hit the target, and then Damien Delaney missed a hat-trick of headers from set pieces, the closest of which hit the side netting from a corner.
Mourinho brought on Oscar, Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba to try and inject life into his, at times, moribund side, but they could do little to effect change at a Stamford Bridge where only the sell-out travelling fans could be heard, later called “impressive” by Mourinho.
Palace could have gained a point though as their best chance of the second half saw Jerome put a dangerous ball into the box to O’Keefe in the 77th minute but his shot was cleared off of the line by John Terry.
O'Keefe's own follow-up was then smothered by Ivanovic and subsequently scrambled away.
Chelsea could have prevented their nervousness in the closing moments as Schurrle’s strike hit Speroni from point-blank range, Ba’s follow-up was saved and then Ramires could not turn it in.
Palace’s next match is against Newcastle at Selhurst Park on Saturday, December 21.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Essien, Ramires, Torres (Ba - 84), Mata (Oscar - 62), Hazard, Willian (Schurrle - 82), Terry, Azpilicueta
Subs not used: Schwarzer, Cole, Lampard, Eto’o
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ward, Delaney, Gabbidon, Mariappa; Puncheon, Dikgacoi (O’Keefe - 26), Jedinak, Bannan (Bolasie - 51), Jerome, Chamakh (Gayle - 88)
Subs not used: Price, Parr, Williams, Campana (Kebe was replaced at the last minute due to illness)
Crystal Palace: Chamakh - 29
Chelsea: Torres - 16, Ramires - 35
So close: Stuart O'Keefe has the Chelsea defence reeling in the closing stages
Eye eye: Yannick Bolasie is watched closely by Willian
On the edge: John Terry has Cameron Jerome on the touchline
Prepared: Jason Puncheon
CLOSE! Damien Delaney goes close to scoring for Palace...
...And he knows it
Battle: Mile Jedinak and Oscar go toe-to-toe
Close attention: Adrian Mariappa mirrors Eden Hazard
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