Chelsea goes 2nd, beats Palace 2-1
An unconvincing Chelsea beat relegation-threatened Crystal
Palace 2-1 Saturday to provisionally move second in the Premier
League, only two points behind leader Arsenal.
Fernando Torres scored in the 16th minute at Stamford Bridge
before Joel Ward set up Marouane Chamakh to equalize for the
visitors in the 29th.
Six minutes later, Ramires grabbed the winner with a
right-footed shot from the edge of the area to the top left
Jose Mourinho’s team could go top of the league over Christmas
with victory against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Dec.
Torres netted his second Premier League goal of the season –
only the fifth by a Chelsea striker and the Spaniard’s first since
his winner in the October defeat of Manchester City.
While Chelsea’s strikers are struggling for goals, Chamakh’s
convincing streak continued as he scored for a third straight game
and showed some of the failings present in Mourinho’s defense.
Palace, which had won its previous two games, had parity for
just six minutes as Ramires struck after being set up by Eden
Hazard, to restore the hosts’ advantage.
Those expecting Chelsea to romp away with the points and fire a
warning to both Arsenal and Manchester City were mistaken and the
hosts were indebted to Petr Cech when the goalkeeper saved from
substitute Stuart O’Keefe.
Despite the shaking foundations, still Stamford Bridge remains a
fortress, as Chelsea extended its unbeaten home run in the league
to 16 games and Mourinho’s home league record to 68 undefeated.
Torres and Ramires were included as two of five changes
following the unconvincing midweek defeat of Steaua Bucharest in
the Champions League.
Michael Essien, Juan Mata and Cesar Azpilicueta, preferred to
Ashley Cole, all started against a Palace side showing one enforced
change from the 2-0 defeat of Cardiff, with Adrian Mariappa
replacing Dean Moxey at right back.
Palace harassed and harangued Chelsea early on, so much so that
the Blues could not string a meaningful period of possession
When they did the warning was there for the Eagles, as Julian
Speroni saved Ramires’ volley.
Moments later, the goalkeeper turned a stinging shot from
another Brazilian on to the post, but Willian’s effort rebounded
for Torres to pounce and tuck in.
Branislav Ivanovic and Essien shot off target as Chelsea
continued to pile the pressure on Palace, which was forced into an
early change when Kagisho Dikgacoi was replaced by O’Keefe.
Cameron Jerome forced Cech into a save as the Chelsea defense
backed off before the visitors equalized through former Arsenal
David Luiz rushed out from defense towards Jason Puncheon, who
found Joel Ward on the left. Chamakh found space as marker John
Terry lost his man and the Moroccan clipped the ball in beyond
Palace’s joy did not last for long as Willian fed Hazard, who
cut in dangerously before teeing up Ramires on the edge of the
area. The midfielder took one touch before curling an impressive
right-footed effort into the corner.
If anyone expected Chelsea to cruise in the second half, Palace
had other ideas.
Puncheon had a shot saved on the counter attack after escaping
the attentions of Azpilicueta before his dangerous cross from a
free kick saw Damien Delaney head straight at Cech.
Delaney made a well-timed tackle to deny Ivanovic in the area
before Mourinho turned to Oscar, who replaced Mata.
The Brazilian could not spark Chelsea into action and instead
the Blues had to rely on Cech to stay in front after fine work by
Jerome found O’Keefe, whose first shot was excellently saved and
his second blocked by Ivanovic before the ball was scrambled
Delaney headed wide from a corner moments later after escaping
the attentions of Chelsea’s defense, which appeared vulnerable.
Ramires fluffed a golden opportunity for a third. Oscar won the
ball from two Palace defenders, but Ramires could not decide
whether to shoot or pass to three of his waiting teammates.