‘Tis the season for celebration, and celebrations will be in order as Chelsea record their 11th straight win in the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Diego Costa’s 13th goal of the season proved to be the match-winner and, for the time being, sends the Blues nine points clear at the top of the table.
The victory didn’t come without a cost, though. As much as both players tried to avoid it, Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante were both booked for the fifth time this season and will both be suspended for the Boxing Day fixture against AFC Bournemouth.
That’s a concern for another week, though, and over the course of this week, Chelsea have continued their tremendous run of victories and are showing a ruthlessness eerily similar to the performances during their run to back-to-back league titles from 2004-2006.
But this match wasn’t terribly easy, and much was down to Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing. Costa took his goal well in the first half, but the Blues created plenty of chances in the second half but failed to capitalise, setting up for a rather nervy finish.
Crystal Palace, to their credit, didn’t capitulate under the pressure and did create more chances than Chelsea in the first half.
Palace’s main threat came from their right side with Martin Kelly at the heart of both chances. First, Kelly drilled his cross into the penalty area for Jason Puncheon, but Puncheon couldn’t sort out his feet and his shot trickled wide.
Just after the half-hour mark, Kelly again found himself in acres of space and whipped in another dangerous cross, but James McArthur couldn’t make clean contact with header and sent the ball wide.
But Chelsea are clearly not in the giving mood at the moment, and just before half-time, Costa struck once again with Chelsea’s first real chance of the match. Peeling off the back of Scott Dann, he rose to meet Azpilicueta’s perfect cross and guided his header back across goal to give the Blues the lead.
Palace almost answered back just after the restart when Gary Cahill misplayed a ball going towards his own goal. The chance fell to Yohan Cabaye who lashed a shot on target that was well saved by Thibault Courtois.
On the hour, Cesc Fabregas, on for the ineffective Willian, nearly created an assist for Marcos Alonso just minutes after entering the fray. Fabregas played a little one-two with Costa and shimmied into the box, but his Alonso couldn’t control Fabregas’ pull-back.
Fabregas could have also gotten on the scoresheet with almost a mirror image of the goal he scored Wednesday night against Sunderland. Eden Hazard found the Spaniard just on the edge of the 18-yard box, but this time the shot was on his left foot, and Fabregas’ shot was tame and straight at Wayne Hennessey.
Just before the end, Alonso thundered a free kick off the crossbar and Gary Cahill was outmuscled on his follow-up header that could have brought them a late second, but Chelsea’s defence held firm and saw the