Football

Conte: Title race back on

Blues boss says shock loss makes battle for the EPL crown more interesting

Antonio Conte admitted Chelsea's shock 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday has blown the English Premier League title race wide open.

Conte's side went into the clash with relegation-threatened Palace sitting 10 points clear at the top of the table and having won their previous 13 fixtures at Stamford Bridge.

But, after Palace's stunning upset and second-placed Tottenham's win at Burnley, Chelsea found their lead cut to seven points with nine games remaining.

Blues boss Conte conceded the battle is back on, with his players needing to bounce back when Manchester City visit Stamford Bridge in midweek.

"For others, this is a good result. It makes the championship more interesting," Conte said.

"But I always said that the league finishes when it is mathematically sure you have won. Otherwise you must play every game to try to win because, I repeat, in England easy games do not exist.

"We have to play on Wednesday against Man City and we all know the strength of that team.

"But, now, the most important thing is to recover very well and rest. It's important to prepare in the right way for the City game but, in England, there are no easy games.

"You could see that today against Palace. Every game will be very tough from now until the end, whether it is Man City or a side fighting against relegation."

Cesc Fabregas put Chelsea ahead after five minutes, but Wilfried Zaha equalised four minutes later and Christian Benteke struck the winning goal in the 11th minute.

Ivory Coast winger Zaha was the game's outstanding player and Palace manager Sam Allardyce believes the player is now delivering on his undoubted potential.

"Wilf must feel really good about himself. It's about consistent performances at the moment," he said.

"It was there before he left for the Ivory Coast. He continued to show that with them and he showed it today with his performance.

"There's a man on the other side, an outstanding individual like Wilf in Eden Hazard. His ability is something Wilf could look at to try and match.

"Him and Christian were our match-winners, and protecting our lead was our goalkeeper and the defence.

"Wilf is already realising his potential with the way he's playing. Potential is becoming a reality."

Palace remain just four points clear of the bottom three, but Allardyce believes his players are growing in confidence.

The only setback for Allardyce was the loss of defenders James Tomkins and Scott Dann to injury.

"Scott has injured his knee. Joel Ward fell on his knee and he felt something go in his knee," Allardyce said.

"Losing James and then Scott is a blow for us. But Martin Kelly and Damien Delaney came on and never put a foot wrong." - AFP

LAST NIGHT'S RESULT

  • Swansea 0 Middlesbrough 0
eplCHELSEA (EPL)crystal palace