CRYSTAL Palace were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Chelsea this afternoon in a performance they can be proud of. Marouane Chamakh equalised for the Eagles just five minutes after Fernando Torres had given the hosts the lead, only for Ramires to restore the Blues' lead. It in a frantic start in west London, both sides looked to play a passing game, and the Eagles in particular stood out with their closing down. But the Palace support was in full voice too, sounding out the whole of Stamford Bridge with ease. However, Chelsea began to get into their stride and opened the scoring on 17 minutes thanks to Torres. Brazilian midfielder Willian let fly from 25-yards out, Palace keeper Julian Speroni pulled off a great save onto the post, but the Spanish striker followed up the rebound. It was very nearly 2-0 moments later when Branislav Ivanovic burst into the box on the right and drilled a low shot just past the far post. The Eagles were forced into a change on 25 minutes when Stuart O'Keefe came on for former Fulham man Kagisho Dikgacoi, who appeared to be limping and headed straight back to the dressing room with physio Alex Manos. Michael Essien had the next chance, shooting just wide of Speroni goal from range, but then out of nowhere, Palace got themselves back into the contest with an equaliser on the half-hour mark. Joel Ward, playing at left-back, got forward and delivered a brilliant low cross for that man Chamakh to score his third goal in three games. The Palace fans went wild in the corner of The Shed End as the Moroccan was mobbed by his team-mates. However, their joy was shortlived as the Blues went ahead again, this time on 35 minutes thanks to Ramires' curled effort from outside the box. And Speroni got down well to deny Chelsea a third when Willian's low shot took a deflection inside the box. It was a slow start to the second half for Tony Pulis' men as Chelsea applied heavy pressure, with Eden Hazard a constant thorn on the left and Juan Mata shooting just wide. Cameron Jerome then ran at the Chelsea defence and drove a shot narrowly over, while Michael Essien was lucky to stay on the pitch after what appeared to be two-footed challenge on Chamakh. And from the resulting free-kick, Damien Delaney came charging in with a header but it was gathered by Cech. The Eagles continued to battle, and Bolasie was next to have a chance, sending a looping header over the bar from Jason Puncheon's cross. Delaney may have done better midway through the half, connecting with another header which sailed over from Puncheon's free-kick. Palace were very unlucky not to equalise on 76 minutes though when Jerome burst into the box, cut the ball back to O'Keefe, who fired towards goal only to see it blocked. And from the resulting corner, Delaney got in front of his marker and sent a header inches past the near post with Cech stranded. Despite Palace's dominance in terms of chances, Chelsea nearly wrapped things up in the final seven minutes when Ramires found himself bearing down on goal alongside Demba Ba, but his weak effort was clawed away by Speroni. And the custodian pulled off a stunning double stop in the final two minutes, standing big to deny Andre Schurrle and then Ramires' follow-up. Chelsea may have won the match, but Palace certainly stood up and were certainly the better side in the second half. They just need to take their chances. A lot of positives to take for Pulis ahead of next Saturday's game against Newcastle United. Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Delaney, Gabbidon, Ward, Jedinak, Dikgacoi (O'Keefe 26), Bannan (Bolasie 51), Puncheon, Chamakh (Gayle 88), Jerome. Subs Not Used: Price, Parr, Williams, Campana. Attendance: 41,608 By Croydon Advertiser Sports Reporter Mark Ritson
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