N'Golo Kante strike gives Chelsea 1-0 win at Crystal Palace
Frenchman's strike on 51 minutes enough to ensure three points at Selhurst Park
N'Golo Kante showed signs he is growing into his more advanced midfield role with a composed finish that gave Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has been criticised for moving Kante out of his more familiar position in front of the back four, with Jorginho filling the holding role.
As a result, Kante's effectiveness this season has been questioned, but the former Leicester City man impressed as he struck the 51st minute match-winner that helped the Blues tighten their grip on fourth by opening up a five-point gap to Arsenal.
Kante followed a perfectly timed run to meet David Luiz's chipped pass with a clinical finish to cap a dominant display by Sarri's side against London rivals Palace.
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Chelsea's failure to add to Kante's third league goal of the season will have given Sarri some concern, though, and would have proved costly had Palace substitute Connor Wickham not skied a late chance over the bar.
Despite dominating, particularly in the second half, Chelsea's chances remained limited.
Willian's curling free-kick from 25 yards took a deflection off the defensive wall before clipping the outside of Vicente Guaita's right-hand post.
The Palace goalkeeper did well to punch the resulting corner clear, but Willian almost caught the Spaniard out with a fierce low shot from distance.
The home side appeared happy to concede territory in the hope of hitting Chelsea on the break and it was little surprise the game remained locked in stalemate at half time.
It did not take long, however, for Sarri's side to breach the Palace defence at the start of the second half with Luiz injecting the moment of creativity needed to find a way through.
The centre-back was allowed time to pick his pass and his perfectly weighted chip fell into the path of Kante who had made a positive run towards the penalty spot.
The France international controlled the ball on his chest before hitting a left-foot shot that flew wide of Guaita's dive.
"It is a move I have tried in training," Kante told Sky Sports. "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. It was all about the pass."
Brazilian defender Luiz added that the goal was about "the connection, about training every day and understanding the philosophy. I just tried to put the ball in and time it for his run."
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic said: "They [Chelsea] have a lot of quality and they kept the ball well. We found it difficult to take the ball from them. They played a really good game and we look forward now."
Burnley rediscovered some of their old swagger as they brushed aside West Ham United 2-0 to ease their relegation worries.
Chris Wood got his now customary strike against the Hammers before the outstanding 19-year-old Dwight McNeil bagged his first Premier League goal - both inside the opening 35 minutes.
Four days after they were thrashed 5-1 here by Everton, Burnley looked resolute at the back and confident going forward as they secured only their second win since the start of October, offering reminders of why they were playing their way into Europe this time last year.
Updated: December 30, 2018 08:30 PM