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

corner.

Jose Mourinho’s team could go top of the league over Christmas

with victory against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Dec.

23.

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

together.

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

striker Chamakh.

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

Cech.

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

clear.

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.