Kante's flash of brilliance settles humdrum tie

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante leaping into the arms of teammate Ross Barkley after scoring the only goal against Crystal Palace.
Chelsea's N'Golo Kante leaping into the arms of teammate Ross Barkley after scoring the only goal against Crystal Palace.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Crystal Palace 0

Chelsea 1


LONDON • The scoreline may give the impression Chelsea squeezed out a second successive Premier League win on their travels but, in reality, Maurizio Sarri's team may not enjoy too many away victories as comfortable as the one at Selhurst Park.

One flash of quality was all it took to claim the derby spoils and open up a five-point gap from fifth place as Chelsea eased to a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace yesterday.

The home team failed to muster a single shot on target all afternoon, never discovering whether the visitors were fragile or not.

It had been desperately humdrum until N'Golo Kante, his manager's half-time instructions presumably still ringing in his ears, injected some impetus early in the second half.

The Blues had been probing when the France midfielder took it upon himself to dart away from Cheikhou Kouyate, and between Patrick van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho, to the edge of the box.

David Luiz's lofted pass was perfectly weighted, with Kante collecting on his chest and steering his close-range finish in beyond Vicente Guaita's outstretched hand.

It was a fine goal utterly out of character with everything mustered up to then, and plenty thereafter.

Kante, who is enjoying his most prolific league season with three goals, hailed his teammate's vision in picking him out, telling Sky Sports "it was all about the pass".

He said: "It is a move I have tried in training. It doesn't work many times, but David gave me a good ball and I am happy to score with my left foot and help the team win."

Sarri also lauded Kante for "improving with the right timing and good movement" despite having drawn criticism from pundits for moving him further forward to accommodate Jorginho at the base of midfield.

The Italian hinted to BBC Sport that he would next "work on Ross Barkley" before adding: "It was a difficult match. I am happy with the team because we dominated for 85 minutes, although we didn't kill the match, so we had to fight again for the last five minutes.

"We now need continuity because in the last five matches, we played very well in three, and badly in two. We have to play 19 matches, so other results are not important but it is crucial to have continuity."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Kante's flash of brilliance settles humdrum tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe