It was a setback in south London for the Blues as a second-half John Terry own goal settled the match.
After a first half in which the two teams shared the few chances there were, the winner came shortly after the restart when the skipper challenged Joe Ledley to a cross and could only head the ball over Petr Cech rather than wide.
Eden Hazard came closest to scoring for Jose Mourinho’s men after that, but was denied by two good saves before the home team ended strongly, hitting the post during a spell of chances.
The shape and attacking players were changed in the search for an equaliser but it was an afternoon when our best creative play proved hard to find.
There was a change in formation with the team starting in a 4-3-3 shape, as we did away against another London club with a direct style back in November- West Ham.
Today Nemanja Matic was the holding player with David Luiz and Frank Lampard pushing forward more. Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard flanked Fernando Torres in attack. The defence was unchanged for the eighth game in a row. Mark Schwarzer was ill so Hilario was on the bench.
Palace named the same side that began their game last weekend at Newcastle when they were defeated in stoppage time.
It became clear early on that part of the Chelsea plan was to get the ball forward quickly with long passes to our attacking three. Matic saw plenty of the ball early on but ahead of him, initial forays forward were ending with a miscued pass, shot or cross.
On 11 minutes there was hope when a throw was allowed through to Torres who chested down and shot, but Scott Dann was there close to the Spaniard to block.
From the corner that followed, Palace were able to break forward but David Luiz had stayed back and was sharp to the ball to clear, before being caught by a late tackle from Yannick Bolaise. The Palace man was booked, David Luiz was down and hurt but after treatment to his ankle he could continue to play a prominent role in the half.
On 17 minutes Chelsea came close to opening our account with our best move from the back of the opening period. Azpilicueta, overlapping at pace onto a Hazard pass, played the perfect low ball across the face of goal but just as Schurrle slid in to make the final touch, Joel Ward got a toe to it first. The ref signalled goal-kick but it should surely have been a corner.
Palace rightly collected a second yellow card when Puncheon went through late onto the shin of Azpilicueta.
On 25 minutes it was the home side’s turn to have a far-post opportunity, Puncheon crossed there to Bolaise who unmarked would have scored but for a bad first touch. With his second he was only able to find the side-netting.
It was from wide areas that Palace were causing us most problems and there was a big shout for a penalty when Cahill challenged Jerome as the ball came in. Referee Lee Mason was unmoved, as he was soon after when the same Chelsea defender went to ground and took the ball from between the feet of Bolaise who was one-on-one and flying into the area. Initial replays were inclusive on whether Cahill caught the players’ boot as well as the ball.
Palace were working up a head of steam and Terry was booked on 30 minutes when conceding a foul just outside our area. Jedinak’s free-kick was hit straight at Cech.
Torres was fouled by Dikgacoi and then headed Lampard’s free-kick over – a rare half-chance in this opening 45 minutes. Although Chelsea’s approach work had been promising at times, a well-organised home side had made the blocks and interceptions when needed when the ball came into their area.
Oscar came on for David Luiz for the restart – a change similar to when we started 4-3-3 but went back to 4-2-3-1 at half-time in the recent home game against Spurs.
There was good initial pressure from the white-shirted Chelsea. Terry didn’t connect properly when he tried to volley at goal from a corner.
Jerome could have caused problems at the other end but headed off target, which unfortunately wasn’t the fate for Terry when he got his head first to a Ward cross with Ledley challenging our skipper at the near post. The ball looped beyond Cech into the far side of the goal.
It was a heavy blow without a doubt, but there was at least plenty of time to try to make amends. Hazard had a crisp low shot well saved by Speroni, our best effort of the game so far.
Mourinho made his second change soon after – Salah on for Lampard on 56 minutes with Oscar now asked to operate deeper and Schurrle more central with Torres.
Chelsea inaccuracy in midfield allowed Palace to go close to a second goal, but Puncheon shot just wide after Jerome had broken free and charged down the centre of the park.
Terry then came close to levelling his account for the game with a great header that just cleared the bar. It was now a spell of sustained pressure from Chelsea but would the chances come? Oscar’s shot from a very difficult angle was easy for the keeper.
Ba on for Schurrle with 20 minutes remaining was the third and final change of personnel and shortly after Speroni came to Palace’s rescue with his second fine save from Hazard – this time when the Belgian latched onto a miscued Oscar shot.
Hopes were for Chelsea to keep knocking on the door, but able to spring forward into the space left as we pressed for an equaliser, it was Palace who ended the game with the chances.
Jerome hit the post after a swift counter-attack caught Chelsea exposed and then Ledley bounced a shot wide before on 78 minutes, Cech was at his best to keep out Puncheon after the winger had got past Azpilicueta. He then tipped a shot over from substitute O’Keefe.
Ledley was wasteful with another Palace chance before another opportunity at last came Chelsea’s way. It was gifted by O’Keefe, with a back pass, but when Torres with back to goal swivelled and shot, it dropped over the top of the goal.
The feeling was at that moment that this game had slipped away, which once a couple of scrambles in the box had been survived by Tony Pulis’s side, proved to be the case.
Our recent run of good victories in London derbies had come to an end and it was hard to argue with the result.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Lampard (Salah 56), David Luiz (Oscar h-t), Matic, Schurrle (Ba 69), Torres, Hazard.
Unused subs Hilario, Kalas, Mikel, Willian.
Booked Terry 30.
Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Puncheon (Parr 90+1), Dikgacoi, Ledley, Jedinak (c), Bolasie (O’Keefe 69); Jerome (Murray 87).
Unused subs Hennessey, McCarthy, Bannan, Ince.
Booked Bolasie 12, Puncheon 19, Dann 75, Mariappa 89.
Scorer Terry o.g. 51
Referee Lee Mason