Chelsea moved to within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a largely comfortable victory over Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.
Thanks to two fortuitous first half goals, the first via a deflection and the second an own goal from Martin Kelly, Antonio Conte’s men were able to secure all three points at Stamford Bridge. Patrick van Aanholt pulled one back in the 90th minute, but that proved to be a mere consolation.
The Blues had 27 attempts on goal, out of which only 11 were on target. They enjoyed 62% of the possession and should have had more goals, but Wayne Hennessey, the woodwork and their finishing let them down. That will matter little, given that this victory was only their third in the last 8 games across all competitions.
Thibaut Courtois: 6
The Belgian shot stopper had the best seat in the house. Courtois had one save to make, which he did well. He could have done better to save van Aanaholt’s shot, though.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7
Azpilicueta did well in defence and was one of the best players in the Chelsea shirt. With 4 tackles and 6 interceptions, he ensured that he did his bit to keep the Palace attack at bay for as long as possible. His passing, however, was a bit off on the night. Only 74 of his 82 passes on the night met their target.
Andreas Christensen: 7
Nullified the threat of Christian Benteke in the first half completely, so much so that it forced Roy Hodgson to bring in a faster, more versatile attacking threat in the form of Wilfried Zaha in the first half. It was a comfortable evening at the heart of the Blues defence for the young Dane.
Gary Cahill: 7
The Englishman had a good game on his return to the starting XI. Things got a lot harder in the second half after the introduction of Zaha, but the Chelsea captain dealt whatever came his way very well. Was fantastic in the air, winning 9 aerial duels. Tackled well and kept Benteke and Andros Townsend quiet.
Davide Zappacosta: 7
Contributed in his own way to what would eventually prove to be the winner. Zappacosta enjoyed running forward and causing trouble down Palace’s left flank with his pace. Attempted 13 crosses, out of which only 3 found their man, and had 3 shots on target.
Cesc Fabregas: 6.5
The Spaniard didn’t have the best night in the middle of the park. Chelsea had 62% of the ball and Fabregas on his day would have had a much more productive game with regard to goals or assists. However, he did contribute defensively, kept things ticking in the middle of the park, moved well and worked well off the ball. His incisive pass even helped scoring Chelsea’s second of the night.
N’Golo Kante: 8
Had a comfortable night in the middle of the park. Was at his usual best, intercepting, winning tackles, recovering possession and carrying the ball out of defence for his team. Misplaced only 4 passes during the entire match and was almost always there when his team needed him the most.
Marcos Alonso: 6
Did fairly well defensively to keep Palace’s wingers at bay for most of the game, but barely contributed going forward. Most of the visitors’ attacks seemed to come from his flank, so he had his hands full on the night.
Chelsea’s best player on the night. The Brazilian was at this sparkling best as he wreaked havoc in the Palace defence. Completed all of the 8 take-ons he attempted, opened the scoring for the Blues and even contributed defensively when he dropped deep. This goal takes his tally for the season to 13, the most prolific campaign of his career.
Olivier Giroud: 7
It just wasn’t meant to be for the Frenchman. Giroud had one shot cleared off by Tomkins on the line and another rattled off the post. It was a very good performance from the former Arsenal striker, who combined well with Hazard and Willian, was good in the air and his hold up play was excellent. Based on this performance, it would be hard to leave him out of the starting XI at the Nou Camp in a few days time.
Eden Hazard: 8
Gave the Palace players a torrid time when he had possession. Completed a stellar 8 take-ons over the course of the game and created 6 scoring opportunities for his teammates. Combined very well with Giroud upfront and even contributed to the Blues’ second goal. However, he would’ve likely had a more productive evening had he chosen to go for glory himself more often.