Chelsea hung on to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but Jose Mourinho’s men certainly made hard work of things against their London rivals.
Early on it looked to be plain-sailing for Chelsea as Fernando Torres struck to put the home side ahead but in the 29th minute Marouane Chamakh equalized as the Blues wobbled. But just before half time Ramires’ stunning finish from outside the box sealed all three points despite a spirited second half display from Palace.
With the victory Chelsea move up to second and are now just two points behind Arsenal, with a game against the Gunner coming up next Monday.
It was a tentative start at Stamford Bridge as Crystal Palace eased their way into the game and Chelsea did likewise.
However the longer the first half wore on Chelsea continued to push forward and in the 15th minute the Blues went ahead as Torres pounced to tuck the ball home. Brazilian winger Willian drive forward and smashed a terrific effort on goal that Julian Speroni tipped onto the post and Torres reacted first to tuck the ball home and make it 1-0.
In the 20th minute Juan Mata played in Branislav Ivanovic and the right back flashed a shot across the goal and went just wide of the far post as Chelsea pushed for a second.
Palace were looking dangerous on the break and they were soon level, as in-form striker Chamakh scored for the third-game in a row as he swept home Joel Ward’s left-wing cross to make it 1-1.
But the Eagles were soon back behind as Chelsea wne t 2-1 ahead thanks to a screamer from Brazilian midfielder Ramires. The ball was picked up by Eden Hazard on the left and he cut it back to Ramires 20-yards out who curled a magnificent effort into the top corner as Moruinho punched the air in delight.
After the interval Chelsea pushed forward to try and kill the game off but they were leaving themselves exposed at the back and Jason Puncheon almost equalized with a great run and shot that forced Petr Cech to make a smart save.
Try as they might Chelsea couldn’t shrug off a stubborn Palace side who kept pressing high up the pitch in search of an equalizer as the Blues struggled to get out of second gear. In the 76th minute substitute Stuart O’Keefe timed his run into the box perfectly but Petr Cech saved well at point blank range to deny Palace an equalizer.
As the Eagles flooded forward inevitably they left gaps at the back and Chelsea should’ve wrapped up the points but somehow Demba Ba squandered a great chance when clean through on goal as Palace continued to defend for their lives.
In the end Chelsea held on for the win as they set up a clash to decide who will be top of the table at Christmas, when they travel to the Emirates to play Arsenal next Monday.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Essien; Willian (Schurrle, 82), Mata (Oscar, 62), Hazard, Torres (Ba, 84)
Goals: Torres (19), Ramires (35)
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Delaney, Gabbidon, Ward, Jedinak, Dikgacoi (O’Keefe, 26), Bannan (Bolasie, 51), Puncheon, Chamakh (Gayle, 88), Jerome
Goal: Chamakh (29)