Marouane Chamakh continued his good form by canceling out Fernando Torres' opener but, despite Tony Pulis's side having several more chances, the Blues secured three pointsChelsea moved up to second in the Premier League with a 2-1 London derby victory over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho backed his misfiring strikers ahead of Saturday's game and Fernando Torres responded by scoring his first goal since October to put Chelsea in front.
|VIEW FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE
|By Liam Twomey
The bottom line is that Chelsea have pulled to within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal but this game was far more arduous than Jose Mourinho would have liked. Crystal Palace played in the true spirit of a London derby and, with Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome in this mood, they have an attack powerful enough to trouble any defence in this league. The Moroccan took his goal superbly and has now netted in three consecutive league matches for the first time in his much-maligned career.
Chelsea should have killed the match off in a second half which saw Julian Speroni foil Andre Schurrle, Demba Ba and Ramires but a combination of poor finishing and an inspired performance from the Argentine ensured a nervy finish to proceedings.
Jose Mourinho will shudder when he remembers that only a trademark John Terry block prevented Stuart O'Keefe from scoring a goal which might have allowed the visitors to leave with a point but a glance at the league table will provide him with more than enough solace.
Palace have been resurgent under new manager Tony Pulis and had chances to get something out of the game but Chelsea held on to secure a seventh win in eight home league games and close the gap on leaders Arsenal to two points.
Defeat for Palace ensured that they remain in the relegation zone but Pulis will take plenty of heart from their display.
Petr Cech replaced veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer as Mourinho made six changes to the Chelsea side that beat Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday night. Crystal Palace left-back Dean Moxey (hamstring) was ruled out, so Adrian Mariappa came into the starting line-up.
The Blues enjoyed plenty of possession early on and they were in front after 16 minutes, when Willian's shot from 20 yards out was tipped onto the post by Julian Speroni and Torres reacted quickly to pounce from close range.
The marauding Branislav Ivanovic almost doubled the home side's lead four minutes later as he burst into the penalty area and flashed a right-footed strike narrowly wide of the far post.
Palace responded and were level after 29 minutes when Chamakh produced a fine left-footed finish to guide home Joel Ward's cross.
Eden Hazard was a constant menace to the Palace defence and the winger cut in from the left to set up Ramires, who let fly from 20 yards out to put Chelsea back in front with a venomous strike 10 minutes before half-time.
Chelsea made a bright start to the second half and Willian raced away down the left then picked out Juan Mata four minutes after the break but the Spain midfielder scuffed his shot wide.
|7/2||Chelsea are 7/2 with BetVictor to win the Premier League|
Yannick Bolasie spurned a chance to equalise when he headed over the crossbar from 10 yards out, then Damian Delaney also nodded high as Chelsea lived dangerously.
Torres almost gave Chelsea breathing space but his right-footed effort was well saved by the agile Speroni after 74 minutes.
Palace came close again three minutes later when Stuart O'Keefe was thwarted by Cech and Ivanovic produced some desperate defending to deny the substitute from the rebound.
Ramires should have made sure of it five minutes from time but he fluffed his lines and Speroni gathered. The Palace keeper then made a final double save to deny Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba in a hectic finale.