Crystal PalaceSport

Chelsea 2 Crystal Palace 1: Eagles defeated as survival hopes suffer another blow

By Sam Smith at Stamford Bridge

Crystal Palace’s two-game winning run at Chelsea came to an end as they were defeated 2-1 by the Blues on Saturday evening.

The Eagles are in danger of being cut adrift from safety and this was their seventh consecutive Premier League game without a win as injuries and poor form continue to have a negative effect.

Both goals came in the first half but the scoreline flattered Palace.

Willian gave Chelsea the lead via a Martin Kelly deflection, before the Palace defender put through his own net just after the half-hour mark.

Patrick van Aanholt halved the deficit in the final minute of the 90, but it was far too late to mount a comeback reminiscent of the one they were the victims of against Manchester United on Monday night.

Olivier Giroud had a good chance to give Chelsea the lead when he diverted N’Golo Kante’s shot towards goal but his flick was straight at Wayne Hennessey.

Andros Townsend then had a speculative half-volley from 20 yards after 11 minutes which dipped and curled agonisingly onto the roof of the net as Palace sought to take advantage of the rare occasions that they went forward in the first 20 minutes.

The hosts were dominant for much of the first half, keen to move the ball wide to their wing-backs while specifically targeting Palace’s left-hand side where Van Aanholt struggled against the tenacity of Davide Zappacosta.

Giroud had a couple more chances to score, on one occasion miskicking when in front of goal and then failing to control Eden Hazard’s pass which would have seen the Frenchman go through on goal. But it was instead Willian who gave Chelsea the lead on 25 minutes with a goal that will be viewed as slightly unfortunate by Palace. The Brazilian winger cut inside from the left and his shot deflected off Kelly and travelled in via Hennessey’s post.

And while the first goal was unfortunate, the second was purely comical and likely to feature in all future football gaffes compilation DVDs. A well-worked move freed Zappacosta, whose shot was blocked by Kelly, only for the ball to ricochet off the back off Hennessey and then hit the former Liverpool defender again for good measure before rolling over the goal-line.

The Eagles were disjointed, their passes were poor and they seemed overrun in midfield, despite actually numerically matching Chelsea’s midfield two.

Roy Hodgson’s side were bereft of confidence, perhaps still feeling the effects of Monday’s devastating, last-gasp defeat.

James Tomkins was forced into an outstanding block on the goal-line to deny Giroud, somehow back-heeling the ball while in a lying-down position while the majority inside Stamford Bridge prepared to react to a seemingly certain third goal.

Hazard then had a goal ruled out for offside as Palace struggled to keep the score down heading into half-time. Christian Benteke’s performance epitomised his side in the first half. The Belgian lacked confidence, was idle and wholly ineffective – his anonymity resembling the atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.

Admittedly the forward was not helped and largely frustrated by lazy forward passes. Benteke was replaced by Wilfried Zaha – making his first appearance since February 4 – at half-time and the Ivory Coast international almost made an immediate impact, dispossessing the lackadaisical Zappacosta before Alexander Sorloth took over and the Norwegian was unlucky to see his powerful shot hit the post.

Tomkins was forced into another good block to deny Willian a second goal before Hennessey denied Hazard when the forward burst through on goal.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, once again impressive on his third first team appearance, blocked a close-range Cesc Fabregas effort before Giroud struck the post as Chelsea pursued a game-clinching and wholly deserved third goal. Patrick van Aanholt then gave Palace a lifeline with his second goal in as many games, tucking home under Thibaut Courtois against his former club from Zaha’s pass.

The Eagles were much better in the second half and Zaha’s introduction gave them an extra attacking edge, but they must improve in future games which include teams around Palace in the Premier League table.

Hodgson’s side travel to Huddersfield Town next weekend and must begin to earn points.

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