Chelsea moved second in the Premier League and to within two points of leaders Arsenal but their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace will have done little to appease fans concerned about the performances of their club.
The Blues won thanks to goals from Fernando Torres and Ramires, the pair scoring either side of Marouane Chamakh’s equaliser, with all three goals coming in the first 35 minutes of an exciting game.
Whilst the home side dominated possession (Jose Mourinnho’s men enjoyed 70% of the ball) and 16 shots to Palace’s 10, they were thankful to goalkeeper Petr Cech who made a number of fine stops in the second half to preserve his side’s slender advantage.
Things had looked good for the Blues when they took the lead after just 16 minutes, Torres being left with a simple finish after Julian Speroni could only push Willian’s shot against the post, the £50m striker reacting quickly to tap in.
Branislav Ivanovic had a half chance soon after but shot wide and the Pensioners couldn’t build on this as Palace put up stubborn and well organised resistance. On 29 minutes the visitors were rewarded with an equaliser, a revitalised Chamakh guiding a volley into the corner from Joel Ward’s cross.
The goal stirred Chelsea and Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Ramires began to exert more control in midfield. Willian and Hazard combined to give Ramires a shooting opportunity and the Brazilian curled a fine effort past the unsighted Speroni.
Willian might have made it three before the break and whilst the home side remained on top they created few real chances. After the interval it was Tony Pulis’s rejuvenated side that started strongly, Cech denying both Jason Puncheon and Damien Delaney.
Sub Yannick Bolasie missed with a header and Delaney the same when both could have done better whilst Cech pulled off a superb save from Stuart O’Keefe’s effort. The home side had swapped Mata for Oscar to try and gain more control but it was the visitors that continued to look the better side and were unfortunate not to score after a scramble in the Chelsea box.
Mourinho’s men did, finally, stir and subs Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba were denied by a fine double save from Speroni after Ramires fluffed a simple chance when through on goal. When the final whistle came the relief amongst the fans and Chelsea staff was evident and whilst another league win keeps the points total growing, yet again the Blues were unconvincing.
There seems to be a lack of cohesion about Chelsea and they appear to possess an inability to produce for the full 90 minutes. The Portuguese boss claims his transition is ongoing but after 16 games many would have expected it to be further on.
Next up is Sunderland on Tuesday in the quarter final of the League Cup, before a huge game at Arsenal where a performance like this is unlikely to go unpunished.