Chelsea leave Selhurst Park in third place after a fortuitous win over the Eagles.
Crystal Palace were cruelly denied an injury-time equaliser by the woodwork as a valiant second-half fightback ended in vain. Only a thumping tackle from Kurt Zouma prevented another golden opportunity moments later as Christian Benteke was put through on goal.
The sound of the final whistle was welcome for Frank Lampard, whose side were clinging on in the final stages.
This was drastically unforeseen as a near-unchanged Chelsea side commanded the opening exchanges. Olivier Giroud gave the visitors the lead in controversial fashion as Gary Cahill’s hamstring injury allowed Willian to break into the area unchallenged.
This injected confidence into the West Londoners, who threatened to further capitalise on a sluggish start from Roy Hodgson’s men. Christian Pulisic and Willian were again looking lively in tandem, ably supported by energetic build-up from Mason Mount.
It was through the prolific wide men that the inevitable second goal came, as Pulisic finished an immaculate pass from the Brazilian on the edge of the box. This was the focal point of another sterling performance from the American, proving a revelation to Frank Lampard since the restart.
This dominance was abruptly concluded by a magnificent long-distance strike from Wilfried Zaha, which again raised questions of Kepa Arrizabalaga. This sparked a revival from the Eagles, who were prompted into battle by their Ivorian talisman.
The hosts continued this momentum after the break, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and a degree of incision unseen in previous games. The combination of Zaha’s trickery and Benteke’s uncompromising physicality proceeded to bully Chelsea’s central defenders.
Substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek provided a brief moment of quality, against the run of play, as he assisted fellow replacement Tammy Abraham with a sublime aerial ball to restore the two-goal cushion.
It wasn’t to last, though, as former Blue Patrick van Aanholt exploited haphazard defending to present Christian Benteke with the simplest of finishes.
The dominance of the hosts was briefly interrupted by the entry of Jorginho, involved for the first time since the restart. The out-of-favour Italian presented an outpost in midfield, enabling the visitors to bisect the hosts’ effective press.
This did not preclude the defensive shakiness, with Frank Lampard’s team requiring a felicitous streak from the woodwork to escape South London unscathed.
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