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Crystal Palace Halt Chelsea Title Charge With Win At Stamford Bridge

Chelsea have seen their lead at the top of the Premier League table cut to seven points as Crystal Palace halted their title charge with a shock 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

All of the goals came in the opening 11 minutes during an action-packed London derby, with Cesc Fabregas opening the scoring before Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke breathed new life into the title race with a quickfire brace.

The win also keeps Palace four points clear of the relegation zone having now won four consecutive matches for the first time since April 2015.

The match got off to a blistering start and it took Chelsea less than five minutes to take the lead when Fabregas marked his return to the starting lineup by turning Eden Hazard’s low cross home from close range.

It was the 23rd time this season that Chelsea have broken the deadlock and the 20th time that Palace have conceded first, so it was no surprise to see the hosts take the lead, but what followed did stun Stamford Bridge as the Eagles launched a furious response to seeing their three-game clean sheet run come to an end.

Palace restored parity just four minutes after falling behind when Benteke flicked the ball on for Zaha, who held off the challenge of a number of Chelsea defenders before picking out the bottom corner with a precise finish.

The Eagles had scored just three first-half away goals all season coming into the match, but they made it two in 90 seconds to turn the game on its head as Benteke gave his side the lead with his third goal in his last three visits to Stamford Bridge.

The striker’s barraging run saw the ball bounce kindly for Zaha, who played it back in for the Belgian to calmly chip over a sprawling Thibaut Courtois after leaving his compatriot on the ground with a dummy moments before.

That proved to be the last of the goals, but it was by no means the last of the action andAndros Townsend was fortunate to escape punishment after 16 minutes when he clearly handled the ball inside the area to stop Pedro’s shot following a cleverly-worked short corner.

Having recovered from the shock of Palace’s quickfire double Chelsea soon began to lay siege to Wayne Hennessey’s goal and the Wales international pulled off a fine save to deny Diego Costa after Hazard and Fabregas had combined brilliantly to set up the chance.

Sam Allardyce‘s side continued to be afforded sights of goal by an uncharacteristically sloppy Chelsea defence, though, and both Jeffrey Schlupp and Jason Puncheon failed to make the most of shooting opportunities before the half-hour mark.

It was Hennessey who was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers though, and he denied the dazzling Hazard before keeping out two efforts from Nemanja Matic to protect his side’s lead into half time.

The visitors were forced into a change at the break as Scott Dann came on for the injuredJames Tomkins, but the Palace skipper lasted just 15 minutes before being stretchered off with what looked like a serious knee injury.

Dann did make an important contribution during his time on the field, though, with his last action being a last-ditch block to deny Costa after the Chelsea striker had taken the ball down inside the box.

The hosts continued to dominate, but Palace defended their penalty box heroically and had a chance to give themselves a cushion with less than 20 minutes remaining when Benteke could not turn Damien Delaney’s knockdown home under pressure from David Luiz.

That was a rare foray forward for the besieged visitors, though, and Chelsea should have found the equaliser shortly afterwards when Hazard stood a ball up for Costa only for the striker to skew his header wide.

The Palace goal was living a charmed life, and it survived another goalmouth scramble before Hennessey denied Fabregas and Costa flicked a header over the top in the final five minutes of normal time.

The visitors’ resolve was tested again when the fourth official indicated a minimum of seven minutes added time, but it was actually Palace who created the best opening of that period when Zaha exchanged passes with Puncheon before firing over when he should have done better.

In the end, further treatment saw the injury time extend beyond the allotted amount, but Palace were finally able to celebrate when referee Craig Pawson called time on a dramatic derby in the 101st minute.

The result brings an end to Chelsea’s 13-match winning streak at Stamford Bridge as Palace become only the second visiting team to deny the Blues all three points in front of their own fans since Antonio Conte took over.

It is also the first time that Chelsea have been beaten by a team outside the top six this term and only their second defeat in their last 23 Premier League outings which, coupled with Tottenham Hotspur’s win over Burnley, cuts their lead at the top of the table to seven points.

Palace, meanwhile, pick up their second consecutive victory at Stamford Bridge having never won a top-flight game at the stadium before last season.

Victory for Hull City over West Ham United means that the Eagles have not increased their gap to the bottom three, but the win will give them confidence with five more of the top six still to face before the end of the season.

First Allardyce’s side must take on Southampton at St Mary’s on Wednesday, while Chelsea face a difficult match at home to Manchester City on the same night.


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Copyright 2017 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to and other relevant sources.

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