N’Golo Kanté’s second half strike was the difference as Crystal Palace’s final game of 2018 ended in defeat to Chelsea at Selhurst Park.

The midfielder found the back of the net on 51 minutes, courtesy of a David Luiz assist, to break the deadlock after a dull opening 45 minutes.

Palace rallied late to try and level the scores through Wilfried Zaha and substitute Connor Wickham but the Blues would come away with all three points.

The Eagles’ position in the table remains unchanged following the defeat, their first in three league games, but are six points behind Brighton in 14th position.

Roy Hodgson opted to keep Vicente Guaita in goal following his impressive Boxing Day showing as he selected a midfield of Cheikhou Kouyaté, James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic.

Palace predictably spent most of their time defending as Chelsea failed to capitalise on their lion’s share of possession during a low-quality first half.

Kanté’s effort which sailed wide of goal on 18 minutes was just the Blues’ second shot attempt, before another strike soon after was thwarted by Kouyaté.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was hardly troubled and, other than a few dismissed penalty appeals, Palace failed to create any substantial scoring opportunities.

Chelsea twice went close to breaking the deadlock when Willian clipped the post from a free-kick before an acrobatic Ross Barkley effort also came back off the woodwork.

But Palace would go behind when Kanté drilled past Guaita on 51 minutes after his incisive run behind the defence was met with an exquisite David Luiz through ball.

Although the opener left Palace with a mountain to climb, Palace struggled to win and retain the ball from Chelsea following the restart.

Hodgson introduced two changes in 10 minutes, bringing in Wickham and Max Meyer, however, the second 45 minutes reflected much of the first.

Selhurst Park roared when van Aanholt’s deflected shot won a corner for Palace, but audible groans followed when substitute Meyer’s delivery didn’t even beat the first man.

Palace’s late rally saw Zaha fire over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area before Wickham’s failed to hit the target after chesting a James Tomkins knock-down.

Despite officials adding on four minutes of injury time, the hosts couldn’t draw level to secure a point in their final game of 2018.