Costa shines as Chelsea se­cure 11th straight win

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON: Diego Costa struck as Chelsea won 1-0 at Crys­tal Palace yes­ter­day, a club record-equalling 11th straight vic­tory that sent them nine points clear at the Premier League sum­mit.

Costa’s 43rd-minute header was the striker’s sixth goal in his last eight games, his 50th Chelsea goal in to­tal and gave An­to­nio Conte’s side a third suc­ces­sive 1-0 win.

Chelsea once again de­liv­ered a con­trolled, ef­fec­tive per­for­mance, giv­ing strug­gling Palace lit­tle chance of get­ting back into the game once they fell be­hind. Chelsea matched their record of 11 con­sec­u­tive wins from April to Septem­ber 2009, achiev­ing the feat within the same sea­son for the first time, and re­main on course to break Arse­nal’s all-time record of 14.

The only blem­ishes were yel­low cards for Costa and N’Golo Kante that mean both play­ers will be sus­pended for next week­end’s home game against Bournemouth.

The match marked the first an­niver­sary of Jose Mour­inho’s dis­missal as Chelsea man­ager and the con­trast in for­tunes be­tween the two clubs over the sub­se­quent 12 months has been strik­ing.

This time last year, Palace were in sixth po­si­tion-they en­tered 2016 in fifth — 11 points ahead of Chelsea, who were in dan­ger of get­ting drawn into a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle. With Guus Hid­dink tak­ing tem­po­rary charge, Chelsea stead­ied the ship be­fore this sea­son’s resur­gence un­der Conte, while for Palace, 2016 started badly and got worse.

Their dis­mal run over the cal­en­dar year would have seen them rel­e­gated if repli­cated over a whole sea­son. Yet while they came into the game still smart­ing from the late 2-1 de­feat by Manch­ester United in mid­week, there have been promis­ing signs dur­ing a re­cent spell of im­proved form. Conte opted to re­store Ne­manja Matic in place of Cesc Fabre­gas, de­spite the Spain mid­fielder scor­ing the match-win­ner at Sun­der­land in mid-week.


Eden Hazard, mean­while, re­turned af­ter miss­ing the Sun­der­land clash through in­jury, with Pe­dro Ro­driguez mak­ing way, while Wil­lian re­tained his place. Palace en­joyed long pe­ri­ods of pos­ses­sion in the first half, but Conte’s side held them com­fort­ably at arm’s length be­fore Costa struck.

Be­fore then, Palace had the bet­ter chances, with Ja­son Puncheon in par­tic­u­lar guilty of miss­ing a clear op­por­tu­nity when he screwed a first-time shot wide from Martin Kelly’s right-wing cross.

While Alan Pardew’s side con­tin­ued to press, with James McArthur head­ing wide from another Kelly cross, it was clear that Puncheon’s miss could prove costly.

Chelsea had looked com­fort­able in pos­ses­sion with­out truly stretch­ing Palace and goal­keeper Wayne Hen­nessey had barely been trou­bled.

But when the home side lost con­cen­tra­tion two min­utes be­fore half-time, Costa was on hand to cap a rou­tine move and put the visi­tors ahead.

Hazard moved the ball from left to right to Cesar Azpilicueta, who floated a deep cross to­wards the far post that should have been dealt with com­fort­ably by the Palace de­fence. In­stead, it caused con­fu­sion, with Hen­nessey start­ing to come for the ball be­fore stop­ping and Scott Dann fail­ing to mon­i­tor Costa’s run, en­abling the striker to climb above him and head past Hen­nessey.

The hard work of the pre­vi­ous 43 min­utes had been un­done and in­stead of hold­ing on, Palace were forced to chase the game af­ter the break.

For 15 min­utes af­ter the restart, Pardew’s side pressed, but Chelsea held on com­fort­ably be­fore tak­ing con­trol as they at­tempted to kill off the game.

Fabre­gas drew a smart save from Hen­nessey, low to his right, and Mar­cos Alonso struck the bar from a free-kick.


LON­DON: Chelsea’s Bel­gian goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois (C) jumps to save a shot by Crys­tal Palace’s Zaire-born Bel­gian striker Chris­tian Ben­teke dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Crys­tal Palace and Chelsea at Sel­hurst Park in south Lon­don yes­ter­day.

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