Goals from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic gave Chelsea a comfortable win over Crystal Palace, our sixth consecutive victory in the Premier League
Despite dominating possession in the first half, we went in at the break without the goal our performance had deserved. However, it took us less than 10 minutes to find the breakthrough in the second period, when Tammy Abraham showed great composure to finish low past Vicente Guaita after being released in the box by a clever interchange between Willian and Mateo Kovacic.
Pulisic then extended our lead in the 78th minute, showing a predator’s instincts to pop up at the back post and turn in Michy Batshuayi’s deflected shot with a diving header.
Frank Lampard selected Chelsea’s youngest starting line-up ever in the Premier League, with an average age of 24 years and 88 days. The most notable change was Reece James coming in for Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back for the 19-year-old’s first start in the top flight. On the other side of the back four, Emerson returned at left-back, while Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori continued their partnership in the middle ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.
There was one change to the midfield, with N’Golo Kante taking the place of the suspended Jorginho alongside Mateo Kovacic after returning from injury. Mason Mount was ahead of them having himself been passed fit to play after picking up a knock against Ajax. He was flanked by Willian and Christian Pulisic behind Tammy Abraham in an unchanged attacking quartet, with the Brazilian skippering the Blues in the absence of Azpilicueta and Jorginho.
The teams were led out on to the pitch by two Chelsea Pensioners in their famous red coats as Stamford Bridge marked Remembrance ahead of 11 November. There was a minute’s silence before kick-off and both sides wore red poppies on their shirts, showing our support for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.
When the action began, we went on the attack immediately as Willian ran at the centre of Crystal Palace’s back line, but Mount couldn’t find space for a shot from the right of the penalty area after being found by Pulisic. However, the clearance only went as far as James on the right wing, and his cross nearly crept in, needing a good save from Guaita to tip it away for a corner.
The next effort came from Pulisic as he cut in from the left, but his shot from the edge of the box went harmlessly wide of the near post. The American was unlucky not to open the scoring 11 minutes in, though. Willian got to Abraham’s headed knock-down and fed Pulisic on the left. He showed quick feet to evade two Palace defenders brilliantly in tight space in the box, but Guaita made himself big and Pulisic couldn’t find a way past the keeper from a tight angle.
We were stamping our authority on the game and Willian was the next to threaten the goal, his curling free-kick just a whisker away from finding the top-right corner after a foul on James just outside the penalty area.
The Brazilian did then pick up the game’s first yellow card, though, when he tangled with Cheikhou Kouyate out wide on the half-way line as Crystal Palace attempted to launch a counter-attack. He was soon joined in the book by Wilfried Zaha, who tripped Willian in a dangerous position just outside the box. That presented another opportunity from a free-kick, but this time it was Emerson who couldn’t test Guaita.
We continued to threaten but couldn’t find a clear sight of goal, with Kante seeing a low shot blocked from the edge of the box after good work by Pulisic in the left channel, and then Mount hit the wall with a free-kick from a central position.
The visitors weren’t completely without a threat of their own, though, as their first prolonged spell of possession resulted in a free-kick wide to the left of the area for a foul by Kante, with referee Mike Dean then showing Emerson a yellow card for a trip on Andros Townsend earlier in the move. From the set-piece, Luka Milivojevic whipped a ball across goal which briefly had the home fans worried, but Kepa was confident enough to watch it fly wide of his back post.
Kovacic’s name also went in the book as the Eagles briefly came into the game more, but we were back controlling proceedings with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Guaita was called into action when a deflected Willian effort threatened his goal, but the game came to a pause shortly before the break as Crystal Palace were forced into making the first substitution. Joel Ward had been struggling with an injury picked up competing with Emerson to get on the end of a Willian set-piece, and had to be replaced by Martin Kelly.
We continued to push for the breakthrough before the break. Following patient work in the middle by Kovacic, James laid the ball back for Kante on the right, who swung in a cross to the penalty spot, but Pulisic couldn’t keep his header down and Guaita watched it over the bar.
We almost found the breakthrough right on the stroke of half-time, as Guaita could only palm James’ low cross back into danger eight yards out, but just as Willian looked set to smash in the opening goal, who else but former Chelsea defender Gary Cahill demonstrated one of the goal-saving last-ditch blocks we have seen him produce at the Bridge in a Blues shirt so many times in the past.
He may have denied us the opening goal at the end of the first half, but the second period began with the Chelsea fans singing their appreciation for former Blues captain Cahill, as rain began to fall at the Bridge.
The first sight of goal after the break fell to Abraham, a ricochet from Willian’s pass seeming to fall kindly for the striker, but he was flagged offside and his effort flew wide of the near post anyway.
However, he made no mistake shortly afterwards as when the breakthrough did arrive, it was Abraham who finished off a slick move to reach double figures for Premier League goals this season.
Kovacic picked up the ball from a throw-in on the left and drove inside. His reverse pass was flicked cleverly around the Palace defenders by Willian and Abraham made no mistake one-on-one with the keeper, slotting confidently into the bottom-right corner.
Pulisic was desperately unlucky not to extend our advantage. Kovacic spread the ball out to the American on the left, and he cut inside past two defenders and unleashed a powerful drive at goal, which was only kept out by an excellent save from Guaita high to his right.
Things weren’t going all our own way, even if Kepa was enjoying a quiet afternoon so far, as Zouma had to time his challenge perfectly to halt Zaha’s advance into the box on the left and then another Milivojevic free-kick flew all the way though our penalty box and out for a goal kick.
Pulisic looked keen to get his name on the scoresheet and crafted another chance for himself almost identical to the last, but this time he couldn’t keep his powerful shot down and it flew over the bar. The American did soon get his goal, in a move he started and finished.
This time after bringing the ball inside from the left, he fed the ball to substitute Michy Batshuayi, who hadn’t long been on the pitch after replacing Abraham. The Belgian’s shot was blocked, but Pulisic had continued his run and was in the right place at the right time to head in the rebound at the back post. It proved to be his last contribution, as he left the field to be replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi.
With five minutes left, Kepa finally needed to make a save, but it was routine as he got down low to gather a James McCarthy shot from the edge of the box.
We were still looking keen to extend our lead, though, with Willian going closest with a low drive from range which skimmed just wide of the right-hand post on the wet surface, with Guaita seemingly beaten.
There were further chances as Batshuayi saw another shot deflected, this time wide, and Willian’s dipping free-kick came down just too late to sneak in under the bar, but as it was the match ended in a comfortable victory for Lampard’s men, recording our sixth consecutive win in the Premier League.
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Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Kepa; James, Zouma, Tomori, Emerson; Kante, Kovacic; Willian (c), Mount (Gilmour 87), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 79); Abraham (Batshuayi 72)
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Giroud, Azpilicueta
Scorers Abraham 52, Pulisic 78
Booked Willian 17, Emerson 31, Kovacic 33
Crystal Palace (4-1-4-1) Guaita; Ward (Kelly 44), Tomkins, Cahill, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic (c); Townsend, Kouyate (McCarthy 81), McArthur (Schlupp 69), Zaha; Ayew
Unused subs Hennessey, Dann, Benteke, Riedewald
Booked Zaha 21, McCarthy 90+3
Referee Mike Dean