Chelsea moved up to third in the Premier League after surviving a Crystal Palace fightback to win 3-2 at Selhurst Park.
Frank Lampard’s side raced into a two-goal lead inside half an hour as Olivier Giroud’s opener (6) was added to by the in-form Christian Pulisic (27) just after the drinks break.
Wilfried Zaha reduced the deficit (34) with a thunderous strike from 30 yards, but substitute Tammy Abraham struck within six minutes of his introduction to restore Chelsea’s two-goal lead (71).
The visitors’ defensive shortcomings were exposed within a minute as Christian Benteke made it 3-2 with a simple finish and Palace were denied a dramatic stoppage-time leveller when Scott Dann’s header was tipped onto the post by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The result means Chelsea leapfrog Leicester, who face Arsenal later on Tuesday, live on Sky Sports with Palace 14th in the table after a fourth straight league defeat.
Crystal Palace: Guaita (6), Ward (5), Van Aanholt (8), Dann (6), Cahill (4), McArthur (6), Kouyate (6), Milivojevic (6), Zaha (7), Ayew (6), Benteke (7).
Subs: Sakho (6), Meyer (n/a), Townsend (n/a), McCarthy (n/a).
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga (7), Azpilicueta (6), James (6), Christensen (6), Zouma (7), Gilmour (6), Mount (7), Barkley (6), Willian (7), Pulisic (8), Giroud (7).
Subs: Jorginho (6), Abraham (6), Loftus-Cheek (6).
Man of the match: Christian Pulisic.
How Chelsea avoided Selhurst scare
Chelsea were sporting their new ‘arctic blue’ away strip, with the club’s description of the kit’s stylistic elements of the design blending “an aura of traditional London tailoring with the energy and colours of today’s SW6”.
From Saville Row to Selhurst, the visitors made a very suave entrance, sauntering into a two-goal lead inside 27 minutes, although there was a slice of good fortune about the opener.
Gary Cahill, who won seven major honours during his time at Chelsea including two Premier League titles, found himself embroiled in an early foot race with Willian after Reece James slipped a ball down the right channel.
Cahill looked in control, but then fell to the ground feeling his hamstring as Willian raced along the by-line and squared for Giroud to tuck home his fifth career goal against Palace.
Roy Hodgson was forced into an immediate change as Mamadou Sakho replaced the stricken Cahill, but the hosts were still re-organising their defence when Kurt Zouma powered a header from a corner just wide of Vicente Guaita’s right-hand post.
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson made two changes. Mamadou Sakho and Jairo Riedewald dropped to the bench after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Leicester and are replaced by Scott Dann and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Chelsea were without N’Golo Kante for the Selhurst Park clash, after he sustained a hamstring injury in the victory against Watford. Billy Gilmour took his position in midfield.
Palace, who entered the game on the back of three straight defeats, were not providing Hodgson with the reaction demanded, and they duly fell further behind when Willian’s sharp one-two with Giroud allowed Pulisic to turn Joel Ward and fire in at Guaita’s near post.
It meant Chelsea reached a milestone, scoring at least twice in eight league games in a row for the first time within the same season since 1934.
But Chelsea have had a knack of allowing their opponents back into games this season and did so immediately as Reece James presented the ball to Patrick van Aanholt, who immediately found Zaha in space, 30 yards from goal. Chelsea backed off, and Zaha unleashed an unerring strike – recorded at 65mph – which flew past Kepa.
“The thing about this Chelsea team is that it’s a good team, it is promising and has lots of talent. But to get where they want to be in terms of winning the title, they are going to have to be a little bit more robust. They are still a little soft-centred,” Gary Neville said on co-commentary.
Chelsea ought to have restored their two-goal lead, however, when Giroud rose to meet James’ delicious cross only to direct his header over from six yards. It proved the Frenchman’s last meaningful contribution as he was soon hauled off in place of Abraham.
Palace probed in search of an equaliser as Chelsea were driven back against a tiring midfield that had lost control of the battle, but for the second time in the contest, the visitors struck just after the drinks break – and Lampard’s alterations provided the difference.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek broke from midfield and timed his pass for Abraham to perfection as he steadied himself and found the bottom corner for his first goal in 11 outings. Palace were not done, however as within 80 seconds, it was game on again.
James McArthur spotted the underlapping run of Van Aanholt, whose cross was tapped home by Benteke for his first goal at home since April 2018 – a run of 21 appearances.
Lampard turned to Jorginho’s experience to see out the victory, which might have been by a wider margin when Guaita tipped Mason Mount’s shot wide, but three were enough thanks to Kepa’s late intervention to deny Dann.
What the managers said
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: “It was a very good performance. One feared the worst when we lost Gary Cahill but the players overcame that unbelievable piece of bad luck to play well in that half. To come back from 2-0 was a really good effort and I can’t fault the players. On another day, we might have taken something from the game but that’s another defeat.
“I hope the players will remember what a good performance they put in. It would’ve been asking a lot for them to stop and people react instinctively. They were behind the defence and they carried on and took it. It would’ve been unrealistic to suggest they do otherwise. In the end, it cost us a point, because they won by one goal.
“The way we approached the game towards the end, hitting the inside of the post, I’m not sure the fans could’ve added anything more were they here but we gave it our all.”
“It’s a hamstring injury and he felt it giving way. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t a tear in the muscle and I’d be even more surprised if he comes back to play a part in the remaining four matches this season.”
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard: “They’re a big three points because of the position we’re in. It’s tight around us. The game could’ve been more comfortable for us but we could’ve lost two points at the end. We can still get better.
“I felt in midfield, considering the quality we have, today wasn’t our greatest day. We weren’t as slick with the ball, and I felt with Ruben he could protect it while Tammy has the legs to run them the other way. I’m really pleased for him.
“I know Gary Cahill very well – we’re friends. You could see straight away it was a bad injury. You feel sorry for him on an individual note. I know for head injuries, the game would stop, but for injuries like that it doesn’t. That’s pretty clear.”
Man of the match – Christian Pulisic
Pulisic looked slightly embarrassed when he was asked about his performances drawing comparisons with Eden Hazard following the 3-0 victory over Watford, but they are becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
The American has been one of the standout performers of the restart with his darting runs bearing a huge resemblance to those of the man he replaced, and his strike to double Chelsea’s lead oozed Eden.
“Hazard did it over a long period of time during a fantastic career at Chelsea,” Neville said. “He’s nowhere near that world-class level when he signed but we’re witnessing him grow and there’s something special there.”
The poster boy from Hershey, Pennsylvania, is getting better with every game.
Christian Pulisic’s first season at Chelsea vs Eden Hazard’s:
8 PL goals, 178 mins per goal
143 mins per goal or assist
3.1 successful dribbles per 90
9 PL goals, 293 mins per goal
132 mins per goal or assist
2.1 successful dribbles per 90
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) July 7, 2020
- Chelsea have now won 132 of their 256 London derbies in the Premier League; their 52 percent win rate is the highest for any side in such matches.
- Crystal Palace have lost four consecutive matches for the first time since March 2018 – the fourth game in that run was also against Chelsea.
- Frank Lampard is the first English Chelsea boss to achieve a league double over Crystal Palace since Dave Sexton in 1971-72.
Crystal Palace travel to face Aston Villa on Sunday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off: 2.15pm) while Chelsea take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday at 5.30pm, also live on Sky Sports.