Crystal Palace’s luck was certainly in short supply at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea recorded a 2-1 win over Roy Hodgson’s Eagles in their latest London derby.
Willian opened the scoring with his 12th goal in his last 17 starts when he saw a shot bounce off the post before finding the net, and then an own goal by Martin Kelly put the hosts 2-0 ahead at the break, but Roy Hodgson’s team were much improved in the second half and nearly pulled one back when Alexander Sørloth struck a post minutes after the restart.
The striker then had a goal controversially disallowed five minutes from time but Patrick van Aanholt did net against his former club in the final minute, but time ran out as Palace pressed for the goal that would have claimed them a vital point in their basement battle.
Chelsea began in the ascendency and N’Golo Kante had a speculative shot that Olivier Giroud dangled a leg at, but despite the distraction Wayne Hennessey managed to block with his midriff before making a routine stop from Willian, but on 11 minutes it was the Eagles who nearly found a way in front.
Van Aanholt’s throw-in was flicked on by Christian Benteke into Andros Townsend’s path and the winger instinctively wrapped his boot around the ball on the half-volley, but unlike against Manchester United five days earlier, he couldn’t quite notch the opener and rippled the top of the net.
In red-hot form, Willian continued to take aim and after threading a grasscutter straight at Hennessey and blazing into the Shed End, he finally got his eye in on 24 minutes. Afforded too much time to bring the ball infield from the left flank, the Brazilian drove a 25-yard shot through a sea of legs and past the fingertips of the fully-stretched Hennessey, and the ball kissed the base of the post before, unfortunately for the Eagles, trickling into the net.
And just seven minutes later, Palace’s luck deserted them once again when they fell two behind. Marcos Alonso sped down the left and his centre was dummied by Willian before Eden Hazard teed up Davide Zappacosta whose blast was inadvertently cleared by Kelly into Hennessey, before ricocheting back off the unfortunate defender as he attempted to scramble it off the line.
Only a good block by Aaron Wan-Bissaka prevented Alonso from adding a quickfire third, and on the stroke of half-time a fantastic goalline clearance by James Tomkins denied Giroud his customary goal against Palace after Hazard had weaved some magic, and from the resulting corner the mercurial Belgian did find the net but was ruled offside as Hodgson’s team escaped into the changing rooms just 2-0 behind.
Needing something to spark his team into life, the Eagles boss introduced Wilfried Zaha at the break for his first appearance in five weeks after his knee injury, and within minutes he nearly made an instant impression. The winger’s pressure forced a mistake by Andreas Christensen which allowed him to play in Sørloth who hammered the ball past Thibaut Courtois, but again fortune favoured the Blues as the Norwegian rattled the post.
Having proved they were capable of finding a way back into the game, the visitors couldn’t afford to concede again and another diving block from Tomkins was necessary to prevent man-of-the-match Willian ending an end-to-end flowing move he originated, and Hennessey produced a stop with his legs to deny Hazard when he latched onto a Giroud flick-on.
However, the Eagles were showing much more threat after the restart and Van Aanholt saw a snapshot from the edge of the box trouble Courtois, and their extra emphasis began to concern the home crowd who were getting restless as a third goal failed to arrive. Willian continued to pepper the Palace goal and Hennessey did well to push away a curling free-kick on the hour before Giroud headed over a cross by the influential Brazilian, and then the striker was the latest to strike an upright when he connected with an Alonso cross.
A pulsating second 45 continued to resemble a basketball match, and five minutes from time Sørloth drilled the ball past Courtois into the far corner, however his celebrations were cut short due to Anthony Taylor penalising Jairo Riedewald for a high boot on Gary Cahill, despite the Chelsea skipper diving low to clear the ball.
However a minute from time a grandstand finish was set up when Zaha received the ball in the centre of the pitch and swept it out to Van Aanholt who was galloping down the left, and he fed the ball through Courtois legs to score in consecutive games, but despite three minutes of stoppage-time, Hodgson’s team couldn’t quite conjure up another chance and returned to south London rueing their misfortune.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Christensen, Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas (Bakayoko 88), Alonso, Willian, Hazard (Pedro 88), Giroud (Morata 72). Subs not used: Caballero, Moses, Emerson, Ampadu.
Palace: Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Townsend (Lee 81), Milivojevic, McArthur, Schlupp (Riedewald 75), Sørloth, Benteke (Zaha 46). Subs not used: Cavalieri, Souare, Fosu-Mensah, Sakho.