Saturday went just about as well as it could have gone for Chelsea Football Club. And the Blues’ win – 2-1 over Crystal Palace – was just one part of that. One relatively small part.
Two consecutive defeats, and four in five Premier League games, had seemingly sunk Chelsea in the Premier League’s tight top-four race. Previously in an advantageous position, it had fallen five points behind Tottenham in fourth, seven behind Liverpool in third, and nine behind Manchester United in second.
But the Blues got everything they could have hoped for in the weekend’s biggest match. United interrupted Liverpool’s momentum with a 2-1 victory over the Reds at Old Trafford.
Chelsea then took advantage, cruising to three points at Stamford Bridge against Palace. Those three took them to within four of Liverpool, and within two of Tottenham, with Spurs traveling to Bournemouth on Sunday.
Chelsea players celebrate Willian’s goal against Crystal Palace on Saturday. (Getty)
The goals were scruffy – in particular the second. After Willian’s deflected opener trickled past Wayne Hennessey, Palace defender Martin Kelly’s clearance rebounded off Hennessey’s head, back off Kelly’s leg, and into the net:
The sruffiness of the goals, though, were deceiving. The Blues were dominant. Olivier Giroud hit the post and had a would-be goal cleared off the line. Chelsea had 27 shots in total, and only relinquished a 2-0 lead in the 90th minute.
Every time Chelsea threatens to descend into true crisis, it seems, Antonio Conte’s side pulls itself out of danger. Its title defense has not gone to plan. In many ways, despite a largely similar roster, the follow-up campaign has gone about as poorly as possible.
But here the Blues are, taking a 1-1 first-leg draw to Barcelona in the Champions League, and very much in the thick of the battle to qualify for next season’s competition. They get Tottenham at home on April 1, and Liverpool at home on the penultimate weekend of the season. Despite all the drama, therefore, they could still save a dysfunctional season.
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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.