Costa strikes, Blues march on

Diego Costa (right) heading the only goal of the game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for Chelsea to equal their record of 11 successive league wins. With 43 points, they lead Liverpool and Arsenal by nine points.
Diego Costa (right) heading the only goal of the game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for Chelsea to equal their record of 11 successive league wins. With 43 points, they lead Liverpool and Arsenal by nine points.PHOTO: REUTERS

Vanquished Palace manager proven right as 'unbeatable' EPL leaders win despite fatigue

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Crystal Palace 0

Chelsea 1

LONDON • There is simply no stopping Chelsea. They equalled a club record by muscling their way to an 11th Premier League victory and leave the chasing pack struggling to catch up with them at the summit.

The Blues last notched up 11 consecutive wins in 2009, when they were managed by Guus Hiddink as well as Carlo Ancelotti.

And Antonio Conte's team have now proved that they can also dazzle on this run after their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace yesterday.

Alan Pardew, head bowed as he trudged down the touchline at the final whistle with the scrutiny on his own position increasing with each defeat, will take no pleasure in being proven right.

The Palace manager had suggested Conte's team are looking "unbeatable" on the eve of this fixture and, for all his own side's ferocious commitment, they could not prise Chelsea apart.

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It's important for us now to look at ourselves. Let's continue this way, with this will to win and to overcome difficulties.

ANTONIO CONTE, Chelsea boss, on his team's commitment and concentration.

Conte had feared fatigue might blunt his side's progress, his squad having only returned to Cobham at 4am on Thursday morning after the midweek success at Sunderland, and there was a stodginess to their approach for long periods.

N'Golo Kante was not quite as spritely as normal, with the team's forward-thinking players heaving to find rhythm.

Match-winner Diego Costa's frustration eventually saw him barge into Joe Ledley to prompt a fifth booking of the season and a suspension after 11 cardless appearances, and presumably grant Michy Batshuayi his chance against Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

Kante also picked up a fifth yellow card which will rule him out as well.

Ultimately, the weariness did not matter and it was Costa's goal that counted and won the coveted three points.

It was also the Spaniard's 13th league goal of the season and took his Chelsea haul to 50 in all competitions.

Conte hailed his players after the game, saying that it was not easy to win and he was "very pleased" with their performance.

"We set out to win today. We played with great concentration. It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy to win," the Italian said.

"I'm pleased for my players first of all. We are a team, in every moment of the game. When we suffer, we suffer together.

"I see every day their commitment, how they live the game. And we deserved to win. We scored the goal and it wasn't easy to win 11 games in a row.

"It's important for us now to look at ourselves. Let's continue this way, with this will to win and to overcome difficulties."

When asked about Costa's suspension, the 47-year-old added: "It's a pity he got a yellow card. He didn't deserve it in my opinion. He's playing for the team, I'm pleased for him."

Pardew was left disappointed that Palace did not get anything from the game but praised Chelsea's defensive display.

"We put in a strong performance today. It's the first game we've not scored for a while, but they defended superbly today. That was as good as a defensive display as I have seen," he said.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Costa strikes, Blues march on'. Print Edition | Subscribe