July 7, 2020 / 7:06 PM / a month ago

Chelsea close in on Champions League spot with 3-2 win at Palace

LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea kept up their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League and Champions League football next season with a 3-2 victory at London rivals Crystal Palace on Tuesday thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Selhurst Park, London, Britain - July 7, 2020 Chelsea's Christian Pulisic in action with Crystal Palace's Mamadou Sakho, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Justin Tallis/Pool via REUTERS

The visitors took a two-goal lead inside half an hour through Giroud and Pulisic but Palace responded with a Wilfried Zaha goal before the break. Abraham made it 3-1 after 71 minutes only for Christian Benteke to strike back a minute later.

Palace then piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser and in added time defender Scott Dann hit the post while only a last-ditch tackle by Kurt Zouma denied Benteke.

The win took Chelsea up to third, leapfrogging Leicester City who were at Arsenal later on Tuesday, to stand five points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United, who visit Aston Villa on Thursday. Palace stay 15 points clear of the relegation zone.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side went ahead in the seventh minute when former Blues defender Gary Cahill pulled up with an injury, giving Willian all the time he needed to cut the ball back for an easy finish by French striker Giroud.

The visitors doubled their lead 20 minutes later as Willian fed Pulisic on the edge of the box and the American shrugged off his marker Joel Ward to fire a fierce angled shot past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Chelsea looked in complete control and only a fine save by Guaita prevented Willian from adding a third goal after Pulisic burst through the Palace lines.

But the visitors, who threw away a lead to lose at West Ham United last week, allowed Palace back into the game in the 34th minute when defender Reece James misplaced a pass and Zaha fired a powerful shot past surprised keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Abraham seemed to have wrapped up the win for Chelsea late on when he fired a low shot in off the post after being set up by fellow substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

But Palace hit back within a minute when Patrick Van Aanholt got to the byline and squared for Benteke to tap the ball in. The hosts then almost snatched a draw when Dann hit the woodwork but Chelsea held on to secure three vital points.

(This story refiles to add dropped letter in Wilfried)

Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Ken Ferris

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