Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace: 6 Things We Learned

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IDecember 14, 2013

Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace: 6 Things We Learned

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    Chelsea secured a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge to close the gap on Arsenal at the top to three points, but Jose Mourinho's men were made to work hard for their victory.

    The hosts went in front courtesy of Fernando Torres' second Premier League goal of the season, but Marouane Chamakh's equaliser on the half-hour mark stunned the home crowd.

    However, Ramires ensured the Blues regained their one-goal cushion just six minutes later and despite heavy pressure from the South London side, Chelsea managed to hang on for all three points.

    Palace manager Tony Pulis will be disappointed, but not with the performance, as his side deserved to take at least a point away from the game.

    Here are six things we learnt from the pulsating encounter in West London.





    *All statistics are provided by unless stated otherwise.

Crystal Palace for Relegation? Not on This Performance...

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    It's never nice to see a manager with Ian Holloway's personality receive the sack for doing such a good job at Crystal Palace, but it was required.

    And the evidence shows that the board made the correct decision. Even if hiring him cost them perhaps more than they were willing to shell out for a manager, Tony Pulis is undeniably proving to be worth every penny.

    The Welsh manager, who left Stoke in the summer after seven years at the helm, was chosen as the man to save Palace from sliding back down into the Championship.

    And while the Eagles are still in the relegation zone in 18th place, two wins from Pulis' reign so far showed encouraging signs that they can still escape.

    Their performance against Chelsea certainly epitomised that belief, running the Blues ragged in the final quarter of the match and looking good value for a vital point. The likes of Joel Ward, Marouane Chamakh and Jason Puncheon were superb throughout,

    The defeat will hurt for sure, but a manager with Pulis' experience will know how to channel it into helping Crystal Palace survive when May comes.

Fernando Torres Stepped Up to the Mark When Given the Chance

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    A player who has experienced much criticism for his lack of form since signing from Liverpool for £50 million almost three years ago, it's a relief for Fernando Torres to score.

    The Spaniard showed great awareness and positional sense to react to Willian's strike which had hit the post, and tapped home from close range to score his second Premier League goal of the season, and sixth in all competitions.

    And while the statistics do not lie, with those two goals coming in 12 Premier League games, Torres has shown vast levels of improvement in the 2013-14 season.

    His overall contribution to the team, including his impressive work rate, has been recognised by manager Jose Mourinho. He has established himself as the preferred lone striker ahead of Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba.

    The Portuguese coach said this week he wanted his strikers to be more prolific, per The Independent, and the 29-year-old came up with the answer with the opener against Crystal Palace.



Joel Ward: A Contender for a Place in the England Squad?

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    There are many players who play out of position in football. It's merely a part of the game.

    When players are injured or out of form, others have to come out of their comfort zone and play where they may not like. 

    Joel Ward did that against Chelsea.

    Starting in the left-back position, the 24-year-old was superb throughout. He provided a great assist for Marouane Chamakh for the equaliser, but his defence contribution was also important.

    Five aerial duels won, six tackles made, four clearances and two interceptions highlights how key he was in the backline today, and he was easily the best player in the Palace XI.

    Naturally a right-back, to perform so well in an unfamiliar position displayed his ability to be versatile, and that's a valuable attribute to a manager.

    Roy Hodgson might not be watching yet, but he will be if the positive reviews about Ward continue.

After Another Nervy Performance, When Are We Going to See the 'Real' Chelsea?

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    Those expecting Chelsea to overwhelm Crystal Palace would be have been surprised with the Blues lack of killer instinct in the final third.

    Having dominated proceedings throughout with 70 per cent possession, the Blues mustered only six more shots than their opponents in the entire game.

    Their profligacy in front of goal almost cost them two points, with Ramires and Andre Schurrle missing great chances to put the game beyond doubt.

    The need for more chances in front of goal isn't a concern, with Chelsea constantly creating opportunities in front of goal, and neither is scoring, with 32 goals in their 16 games.

    But Mourinho wants more, and so do the fans. This isn't the side that anyone thought they would see. The lack of intimidation is a surprise, and teams come to Stamford Bridge thinking they can win. That is despite none managing to do so.

    Either way, they need to start hitting top form soon or pay the price later in the season. They are now only two points off Arsenal at the top, so there is no better time to do so.



Finally Mourinho Gets His Selection Right

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    It's been speculated that Jose Mourinho didn't have a clear picture in his mind about what his best lineup was.

    Of course, the names of Petr Cech, John Terry and Eden Hazard appear regularly enough amongst his team sheets to know they are going to feature. But as a contrast to his 2004-05 title winning side, rotation has become a key policy under Mourinho during his second stint as manager.

    Whether he is unsure about some players, taking Juan Mata as a clear example, is unknown. Oscar featured prominently in the early parts of the season, but was replaced by Andre Schurrle for the 3-2 defeat against Stoke.

    The Brazilian was left out again in the match against Crystal Palace, and while it's surely nothing personal, Mata's resurgence in the first-team is something to note.

    Willian has also been impressive in his appearances in a Chelsea shirt, and was unfortunate to see his wonderful effort hit the post, before Torres tapped it in.

    The defensive pairing of David Luiz and John Terry appears to be reminiscent of the same partnership he had with Ricardo Carvalho, and while it may take time to solidify under Mourinho, they work better together than with Gary Cahill.

    Rotate by all means to maintain freshness, but the key to winning in the Premier League is consistency, and the 50-year-old coach needs to keep faith in his first-choice team if he is to achieve that.

Criticism of Marouane Chamakh Is Unjustified

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    After a nightmare three-year period with Arsenal, where he scored just eight Premier League goals, few would've predicted the impact that Marouane Chamakh has made with Crystal Palace.

    Signed on a free transfer with a one-year deal, Chamakh had nothing to lose by joining the Premier League strugglers: fail to impress and he leaves to find another club, or perform brilliantly and the ball is firmly in his court.

    And to everyone's surprise (yes, you as well) the Morocco international has been superb. 

    Of his seven shots so far this season, he already has four goals. Chances might come few and far between for the 29-year-old, but he can put one away when he gets one.

    A wonderful flick against Chelsea from a superb Joel Ward cross was more than the towering forward deserved, and he was an aerial menace for the defence.

    Having already scored four Premier League goals this season, the revitalised forward may be hoping to hit double figures at the end of the season and attract interest from other clubs in the summer.