Blues launch revival with Crystal victory
London, January 3
Chelsea began the new year offering signs of a revival as the Premier League champions comfortably beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Sunday with goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa.
Guus Hiddink’s side began the day in 16th place, three points above the relegation zone after a woeful opening half of the season, but comprehensively outplayed seventh-placed Palace in torrential rain at Selhurst Park.
Hiddink is unbeaten since taking over on an interim basis following the sacking of Jose Mourinho last month, although the win at Palace was his first following draws with Watford and Manchester United over the Christmas programme.
Costa set up Oscar to side-foot Chelsea ahead after 29 minutes and Chelsea went on to play some of their best football of the season to pick apart a Palace side sorely missing the suspended Yohan Cabaye and injured Yannick Bolasie.
Willian smashed in Chelsea’s second on the hour with a thumping shot from outside the area and shortly afterwards Costa capped a hard-working performance with a close-range third goal.
Palace offered precious little and Chelsea’s only concern was an injury to Eden Hazard who limped off midway through the first half after signalling to the bench. Chelsea’s third win in their last 11 league matches moved them up a couple of places to 14th with 23 points.
On Saturday, Arsenal and Manchester City showed they have the stomach for a title fight with the Premier League leaders sinking Newcastle United 1-0 and Manuel Pellegrini’s men launching a late comeback to beat Watford 2-1.
There was celebration at last for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal as his team ended a dismal six-game league streak without a win by defeating Swansea City 2-1.
Arsenal’s victory was scrappy and nervy but Laurent Koscielny’s 72nd-minute winner was enough to move them two points clear at the summit after Leicester City’s surprise push faltered with a goalless draw at home to 10-man Bournemouth.
Manchester City underlined their credentials as Arsenal’s main challengers and although they looked forlorn for much of the game at Vicarage Road, they showed their mettle in the closing stages.
Trailing 1-0 to Aleksandar Kolarov’s own goal, Yaya Toure volleyed home superbly in the 82nd minute and Sergio Aguero headed the winner moments later to wrap up a precious win that kept them three points behind the pacesetters.
Arsenal are continuing to defy predictions that they lack the consistency of genuine title challengers and while they were not on top form to Newcastle, the Londoners did enough to scrape a win under pressure.
Wayne Rooney secured the points for Manchester United against Swansea with his first league goal since October, a superb flick in the 77th minute that moved his team up to fifth. Rooney also climbed above Andy Cole as the second highest scorer inEPL history with 188 goals.
Jermain Defoe scored twice for Sunderland whose hopes of avoiding relegation were boosted with a 3-1 win over bottom club Aston Villa.
Alex Tettey scored the only goal of the game for Norwich City against Southampton who had Victor Wanyama sent off in the second half, while Jonny Evans snatched a stoppage-time winner for West Bromwich Albion as they beat Stoke City 2-1.