London: N’Golo Kante’s second-half goal gave Chelsea a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday to strengthen their grip on fourth place in the Premier League.
After a frustrating first half for the visitors, Kante provided the breakthrough when he ran onto a ball over the top from David Luiz in the 51st minute, chested it down with his first touch and slotted the ball under goalkeeper Vicente Guaita with his second.
Olivier Giroud also had two well-taken strikes questionably ruled out for offside — one in each half — while Willian and Ross Barkley both hit the post for Chelsea. But Kante’s goal was enough to lift the Blues five points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and close the gap to Tottenham to just two points.
“It is never easy to play here or control it here especially when they play long balls but we did well,” said Chelsea’s David Luiz. “We could have scored early but they also did a great match defensively which is why it was so difficult.”
Palace had mainly focused on defending until Kante’s goal and couldn’t muster much of an attacking threat until the final five minutes, with Patrick Van Aanholt having a shot blocked for a corner and Wilfried Zaha firing off target from a dangerous position moments later. Substitute Connor Wickham then wasted the best chance for an equaliser when he fired high from six yards out after the ball fell to him following a free kick into the box.
Roy Hodgson’s side, who are in 14th place, had just 32 per cent of possession.
“I think today, for 75 minutes, Chelsea were the better side,” Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic told Sky Sports. “We didn’t create enough. We tried in the last 15 minutes but I think they deserved the three points.
“They have a lot of quality and they kept the ball well. We found it difficult to take the ball from them. They played a really good game and we look forward now.”
Chelsea struggled to make use of their dominance in the first half, though, with Willian hitting the left post from a free kick and Barkley also hitting the frame with an acrobatic overhead finish with his back to goal.
Giroud thought he had put his team ahead when he was sent clear on goal by Jorginho in the 28th and slammed a fierce left-footed shot into the far corner, but he was flagged for offside. Replays, however, indicated that it was a marginal call. It was the same story again for Giroud in the 73rd, when another left-footed strike was disallowed by the offside flag. He was injured in the process of scoring that one, and limped off with an apparent ankle problem.
Results and fixtures
Crystal Palace 0 Chelsea 1
Burnley v West Ham United
Southampton v Manchester City
Manchester United v Bournemouth
Everton v Leicester City, 4.30pm
Arsenal v Fulham, 7pm
Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur, 9.30pm
Bournemouth v Watford, 11.45pm
Chelsea v Southampton, 11.45pm
Huddersfield Town v Burnley, 11.45pm
West Ham United v Brighton, 11.45pm
Wolves v Crystal Palace, 11.45pm
Newcastle United v Manchester United, midnight
Manchester City v Liverpool, midnight