BY PAUL LAGAN
N’Golo Kante scored the only goal against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park that cemented Chelsea’s fourth place in the Premier League, they are now five points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and breathing down the neck of Manchester City who play Southampton later this afternoon.
But for a sloppy defeat to Leicester City a couple of weeks ago, the Blues would now be in second place clawing at the coat tails of Liverpool.
Crystal Palace were happy withy their first half performance, there was no serious attempt to attack they Blues, instead they were content to bide their time in the second.
But it was the west Londoners who took the initiative through the left boot of France star Kante, six minutes after the restart.
Chasing down a lofted ball by David Luiz, the diminutive midfielder chested the ball down in the Palace area, and clipped an left-footer past Vicente Guaita.
Chelsea dominated early possession without actually making any progress on the Palace goal.
On 12 minutes, Marcos Alonso demonstrated that pressure when a pass to him was wayward and went out for a throw-in. The Spain defender then smashed the ball into the ground, giving referee Craig Pawson no option other than to give the left back a yellow card.
A flashing right-footed effort by N’Golo Kante, on 20 minutes, from just outside the home side’s penalty failed to trouble Vincent’s Guaita, as the ball zipped well wide of the goalkeeper’s right post.
Giroud had the ball in the back of the net on 30 minutes, but he must have been an inch offside as he produced a brilliant angled, curling, left-footer, which gave Guaita no chance as it arrowed into the bottom left-hand corner of his net.
William struck the post with a wonderful free-kick on 37 minutes which Pawson deemed to be a save from Guaita. From the resultant corner, Willian zapped in a daisy-cutter which the keeper did well to parry low to his right for a legitimate corner. Ross Barkley hit they same upright with a deft overhead kick, again from Willian’s corner.
There were no changes by either side at half-time. The pattern of the first was repeated in the early stages of the second.
But then, six minutes in, a David Luiz clipped pass was met by Kante. He had a lot to do inside the Palace penalty area, but he controlled the lofted ball, brought it down with his chest, and clipped a left-footer, that lacked power but took Guaita by surprise, and the ball rolled under his body and into the back of the net.
The few occasions, Palace got into the Chelsea penalty area, they looked dangerous. But each time the visitors managed to work the ball out, sometimes with a good old hoof, others by careful one-touch play.
Again Giroud had the ball in the back of the net, a thumping left-footer – but was adjudged to be offside – probably by half an inch this time.
Tiger France star injured himself when James Tomkins landed on top of him and after a couple of minutes treatment, was replaced by Alvaro Morata on 75 minutes.
Chelsea face Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night in the league.
Emerson came on for William with none minutes left.
Teams: Chelsea; Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Barkley, Hazard, Giroud, Willian, Azpilicueta, Luiz
Subs: Caballero, Kovacic, Zappacosta, Christensen, Morata, Emerson, Ampadu
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Kouyate, Townsend, Zaha, Sakho, Schlupp, McArthur, Wan-Bissaka
SAubs: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Meyer, Ayew, Wickham, Puncheon
Referee: Craig Pawson