Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea: Uninspiring Eagles defeated by Kante goal
Photo: Getty Images - Harriet Lander/Copa

Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea: Uninspiring Eagles defeated by Kante goal

N'Golo Kante scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat Palace. 

Matt Dawson

A solitary goal from N'Golo Kante was enough for Chelsea as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 to tighten their grip on fourth spot. 

Chelsea spurned a host of chances and Olivier Giroud had two goals ruled out for offside but the Blues held on for all three points. 

It was a win that took Maurizio Sarri's side five points clear of Arsenal in the race for the Champions League places. 

Story of the match

Chelsea initially struggled to get in behind the Palace backline but sprung to life around the half-hour mark of the game. Giroud had a goal ruled out for offside as he found the net in delightful fashion on the volley, but the closest they would come came through Willian and Ross Barkley.  

In the space of a two minute period, the pair of them could have put Chelsea ahead. Willian first lined up a free-kick around 25 yards out from goal but his effort struck the post and went behind. The Brazilian then forced Vicente Guaita into making a save just moments later from a shot from range.  

Barkley then became the second Chelsea player to hit the post in the space of a few minutes as his flicked attempt hit the woodwork and then bounced beyond the dead ball line. 

Palace had spells of possession and Wilfried Zaha was keen to pick up the ball in the middle of the pitch. He even had a penalty appeal waved away as the first half came to a close with Barkley making a brilliant challenge on the Ivorian inside the area. 

Chelsea started the second half as they finished the first and it took them just six second-half minutes to break the deadlock. David Luiz found space to clip a ball over the defence into Kante, who took the ball down and then squeezed an effort underneath Guaita to make it 1-0. 

Sarri's men looked to pursue a second and they almost found it after the hour mark with Willian and Barkley going close once more. The Brazilian saw his effort saved and then from the follow-up Kante laid off Barkley whose shot deflected wide. 

Giroud's afternoon was an unfortunate one as he was to have another goal ruled out by the referee's assistant for offside. He was played through on goal and rifled home, only to look up and see the linesman's flag up.

The French striker then hobbled off with an ankle injury as Alvaro Morata replaced him. 

Palace regrouped and had a strong spell towards the end of the game. They struggled to create anything too clear cut until Connor Wickham, on as a second-half substitute spurned their best chance of the game with minutes to go.

The ball fell to him six yards from goal but he blazed it over the bar as Chelsea were able to hold on for three points. 

Takeaways from the game

Kante can flourish further forward

Following Chelsea's 3-1 defeat against Tottenham towards the back end of November, Sarri was criticised for trying to play Kante further forward in his system. However, since then the French midfielder has been flourishing in an advanced role - something that was evident in the way he got forward for Chelsea's opener against Palace. He took the ball down and finished like a striker as he scored his third of the campaign. 

That tally means Kante has now scored more than he's managed in each of his previous three terms in English football, something which is a clear indication of how he's now helping the team in a more attacking sense.

Palace's attacking woes at home continue

Five goals in ten home matches tells the story for Palace this season. They haven't been good enough going forward and against a Chelsea side who failed to put their chances away, the hosts could have earned something from the game. As he so often has been for Palace, Zaha was their main orchestrator but he rarely found too much space in promising areas and as a result, the Blues kept a clean sheet. 

Man of the match

Kante - The French midfielder was the shining light in a match which lacked much quality. We all know how good he is in front of the back four but he's now proving himself in forward areas too.