Currently standing at first place in the division, Chelsea have gone on to secure the Christmas Day top spot with room to spare as Diego Costa scored an impressive goal in the 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace on Saturday 17th December. Costa’s header at 43 minutes into the game was the sixth goal for the striker in his last eight games, his 50th goal for Chelsea overall, and provided Antonio Conte’s side with a third consecutive 1-0 win. Once again, Chelsea delivered a controlled and effective performance that they have become so well-known for this season, giving Palace a very slim chance of getting back into the game once they fell behind and began to struggle.
According to Chelsea manager Conte, the run is ‘fantastic’. He went on to make a point of telling people to congratulate the players rather than him, and said that they deserve the victories. But, Conte is well aware that the Blues are not completely out of the danger zone yet. He said that it was important for his team to understand that they are only at the 17th game of the season, and that looking at the table is not as important as focusing on constant improvement.
Chelsea have managed to match their record of eleven consecutive wins from April-September in 2009, managing to achieve the feat within the same season for the first time, and ensuring that they remain on course to beat Arsenal’s all-time record of 14 wins. However, the game was not faultless, even though the only blemishes came in the form of yellow cards for both Costa and N’GoloKante, meaning that both players were suspended for the next match against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge.
The victorious match marked the first anniversary of Mourinho’s dismissal as the Blues manager, and it’s striking to see the contrast between now and then when it comes to the club’s performance and results. At this time last year, Crystal Palace were in 6th position, and were at this point a huge eleven points ahead of Chelsea, who were at the time in danger of being drawn into a relegation battle. But, 2016 has started badly and gotten worse for Palace, as if replicated over a whole season, their dismal run over the calendar year would surely have seen them relegated.
Whilst Palace may have been defeated yet again, manager Alan Pardew said that it was a ‘strong performance’ even though the players didn’t deliver anything. Meanwhile Conte decided to restore NemanjaMatic in Cesc Fabregas’ place, despite the midfielder’s impressive scoring of the match-winning goal at Sunderland previously in the week. After missing the Sunderland clash due to an injury, Eden Hazard was also back on the pitch, with Rodriguez making way for Willian. Palace enjoyed some long periods of possession in the first half of the game, however, Conte’s side managed to hold them at arm’s length for long enough before Costa was able to strike.
Until then, it was Palace who had the better chances, with Jason Puncheon missing a clear opportunity when he messed up a first-time shot wide from Kelly’s right-wing cross. At two minutes before half-time the home side seemed to lose some concentration, making it easy for Costa to swoop in with a routine move that managed to put the visiting team ahead.
What do you think of the differences between this season and last at Stamford Bridge? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.