MATCH REPORT

Short report: Morata brace maintains unbeaten run

Our impressive early-season form continued this afternoon as Crystal Palace were beaten 3-1 at the Bridge, with Alvaro Morata scoring a brace and Pedro adding a third as we reacted well to conceding an equaliser early in the second half.

It was an afternoon on which the victims of the tragic helicopter crash in Leicester last Saturday, which included the club’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, were remembered ahead of kick-off as all inside Stamford Bridge showed due respect.

A slow start from both teams meant there was little goalmouth action to speak of during the early part of the game, and the opening goal arrived just after the half-hour mark when Morata swivelled to score from close range following good work by Pedro.

Palace hit back eight minutes after the restart, however, through Andros Townsend, but two goals in the space of five minutes, first from Morata and then Pedro, put us firmly in control of the contest.

Maurizio Sarri was able to call upon Eden Hazard once again, as the Belgian returned from injury, coming off the bench to set up our second goal, meaning it was a good day all-round for the Blues, who remain unbeaten this season in all major competitions.

Magic Morata

It’s now five goals in six matches for Morata, who looks a confident figure in front of goal.

Having netted the opener at Burnley last Sunday with a well-taken finish, the Spaniard broke the deadlock once again today with a pure striker’s goal, before restoring our lead with an angled drive after Palace had equalised.

Goals, of course, are hugely important for the belief of any forward and Morata has produced the goods of late.

Aside from the goals, the Spaniard’s all-round performance today was impressive as he led the line well, defending from the front when necessary and providing important contributions in front of goal when the team needed it most.

While the 26-year-old and Olivier Giroud were regularly rotated earlier in the campaign, Morata has now started four of our last five games, and three in a row after today.

On current form, Morata is making himself difficult to leave out.


 

The right reaction

When Crystal Palace drew level early in the second half it was a vital moment in the game. How would we react? The answer, thankfully, was a positive one as the Blues remained calm and continued to move the ball well and play on the front foot.

Just three minutes after Palace's goal Morata's header was well saved by Wayne Hennessey, and after the striker had restored our lead soon afterwards there only looked likely to be one winner.

Tests throughout the season come in many different forms, and being able to respond intelligently to challenging moments in matches is a skill which will undoubtedly prove useful looking further ahead.

Team news

Sarri made a number of changes to the side which beat Derby in midweek, with Kepa coming back into the team, along with the back four which has served us so well in the Premier League so far this season.

Jorginho and Ross Barkley were also restored to the starting 11 in midfield while Morata continued to lead the line.

Hazard, having missed our previous three matches, returned from injury but started on the bench for the Blues.
 

Key moments

19: The first real chance of the game fell Palace’s way as Wilfried Zaha got away down the right and picked out Max Meyer who fired over the bar.

23: Marcos Alonso produced a decent delivery from the left-hand side and although Morata, who was under pressure, got his head on it the striker was unable to guide it towards goal.

31: GOAL, 1-0 to Chelsea – Pedro’s initial cross was charged down but he reacted quickest to fire the loose ball across the face of goal to Morata, who brought it under control with his first touch before firing past Wayne Hennessey.
 

34: A superb team move ended with Willian beating Hennessey from close range but the offside flag had already been raised against the Brazilian.

38: Alonso stole in at the back post to meet a David Luiz free-kick and his header his subsequently flicked just over the bar by Morata.

52: Palace equalised as Andros Townsend exchanged passes with James McArthur before racing towards goal and drilling his strike into the bottom corner.

55: Almost an instant response from the Blues as Azpilicueta picked out Morata whose header was well saved by Hennessey, the keeper clawing the ball away.

62: Another good opportunity went begging as Hennessey produced another fine save, this time to push David Luiz's header around the post.

63: Sarri made his first changes by introducing Hazard and Mateo Kovacic for Willian and Barkley.

65: GOAL, 2-1 to Chelsea - Hazard's free-kick was allowed to drop to the far post where Morata brought the ball under control before sending a left-footed drive past Hennessey and into the bottom corner.

69: GOAL, 3-1 to Chelsea - Our lead was extended as Alonso whipped a low cross into the penalty area and as Morata let it roll by, Pedro was on hand to produce a brilliant first-time finish.

90+2: Hazard put Morata clean through on goal but the striker, going for his hat-trick, attempted to scoop it over Hennessey and the strike was saved.

What next?

It’s Europa League action next for Chelsea as we travel to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov on Thursday, a game which kicks off at 5.55pm UK time.
 

CRYSTAL PALACE (H) PREMIER LEAGUE 18/19

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