A lightning-quick start from Chelsea and a ruthless style of play saw Thomas Tuchel’s side stroll to a comprehensive victory over Crystal Palace, as they regained their place within the Premier League’s Top Four. It ended Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea at Selhurst Park.
The first half blitz began with a two minute double salvo from Chelsea that had Kai Havertz right at the heart of it.
It was the young German who opened the scoring after eight minutes, waltzing into the box and calmly stroking the ball into the far corner to make it 1-0, before releasing Christian Pulisic just moments later to smash home and double the lead.
Kurt Zouma completed the first half scoring after half an hour, rising highest to head home Mason Mount’s delightful free-kick into the box – the French defender’s fifth Premier League goal of the season and first since December.
Christian Benteke got one back for a much improved Palace after the break, but the goal was nothing more than a warning to Chelsea who kicked on as Pulisic got his second of the game to wrap up the points and make it 4-1.
Thomas Tuchel made three changes to the team that claimed a 2-0 victory against Porto in midweek. Zouma stepped into defence in place of Andreas Christensen, with Callum Hudson-Odoi returning at wing-back for Reece James.
Pulisic was handed a start on the left, and will have fond memories of his appearance at Selhurst Park last season, where he scored a fantastic goal during the peak of his post-lockdown form in a 3-2 win.
A confident-looking Chelsea started very well to say the least, and any worries of a Champions League hangover were completely dispelled within the opening ten minutes.
Pulisic should’ve had the first goal of the evening after eight minutes, forcing a save from close range after an excellent ball in from Mount.
The chance appeared to be gone as Crystal Palace looked to clear their lines, however Eberechi Eze gave the ball away to Mount in a dangerous area, before a couple of quick passes saw Havertz on the ball with space in the box. The German was coolness personified as he took his time and delicately placed the ball in the far corner to make it 1-0.
Only his second Premier League goal of the season, it was the finish of a seasoned goalscorer, from a player who appears to have finally found some sort of home in his ‘false nine’ role.
One minute and forty seconds later, Chelsea took a giant stride towards the three points as they stung Palace with a quick fire double.
A beautifully constructed passing move led to an overload down the left hand side and as Crystal Palace’s players were dragged around to try and cover, Pulisic found space just inside the box and was found by Havertz. The winger then unleashed a fierce near post drive that flew past Guaita into the top corner – a carbon copy of his previously mentioned goal last season to make it 2-0.
With a goal and assist under his belt, Havertz was looking visibly different from his earlier performances in a Chelsea shirt as he began to regain the confidence he had during his Bayer Leverkusen days.
After 23 minutes, he almost added to his tally with an effort that probably would’ve found itself in the goal of the season conversation.
Mount’s searching ball over the top reached Havertz, who was running on to it at speed before a Gascoigne-esque flick over the dfenders head with his first touch, before seeing his volleyed shot saved from close range.
The game was virtually all over after 30 minutes after Kurt Zouma added to his prolific early season goalscoring form by grabbing his fifth league goal of the season.
Seemingly involved in everything Chelsea do well at the moment, Mount whipped in a free-kick from deep on the left, teasing it into the perfect area for Zouma to rise highest and nod home from close range. 3-0. Ruthless.
Mount himself went close to adding to the significant first half lead soon after, firing a powerful shot towards the near post that needed saving. The resulting corner eventually ran through to Chilwell on the edge of the box, and his strike needed blocking to prevent further Palace pain.
That meant that Tuchel’s side went into the break with a commanding three goal advantage, looking dominant in every department and arguably displaying their best football so far under the German manager.
HT: Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea
Crystal Palace had to show something different after the break if they wanted to restore some pride, and Roy Hodgson’s side looked a lot less happy to leave Chelsea in possession the previously, pressing higher up and with greater intensity.
Unfortunately for the home side, the new pressing style meant that if Chelsea could play through it, there would be less defenders in key areas than if they were standing off – something the visitors almost took advantage of straight away.
Mount released Chilwell down the left, who carried the ball well into the area before cutting inside and leaving his defender on the floor. With the ball now on his unfavored right foot, Chilwell attempted to find the far corner but couldn’t get the curve on the ball as it drifted wide; much to the dismay of Hudson-Odoi and Mount, who were both positioned perfectly for a square ball to leave them with an open goal.
Tuchel’s first substitution came exactly on the hour mark and looked as if it was made with one eye on the second leg against Porto on Tuesday, as Jorginho was replaced by N’Golo Kanté.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Chelsea however, as Palace grabbed a goal back soon after the substitution, with their first attempt of the game, through Christian Benteke. The Belgian forward powered in a trademark header from Jeffery Schlupp’s cross, beating Chilwell easily in the air and scuppering Mendy’s hopes of a clean sheet.
Chelsea suddenly had to have their wits about in a game where the next goal was now absolutely vital.
Havertz should have had that next goal and his second of the game with 20 minutes to go, after finding himself clean through on Guaita after a ball by Pulisic. Havertz must have thought he had less time than he did, as he took on the shot quickly and from the edge of the area, only managing to direct it straight at the keeper. The Blues had efforts through Mount and Chilwell as they tried to make it Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea.
Tuchel’s next change saw Hudson-Odoi replaced by Reece James. It was a good display from the youngster, who offers Chelsea a completely different dimension going forward when lining up in the right wing-back role.
James was only on the pitch for one minute before he had a telling involvement in Chelsea’s fourth, a massively important goal to wrap it up.
Mount, popping up with a key pass again, sent James on his way down the right, in space to fizz a ball in towards the back post, which took a deflection on its way to Pulisic who touched it home from close range to make it Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea.
Hakim Ziyech was introduced late on in Chelsea’s final change, replacing Mateo Kovacic for the final few minutes.
Full Time: Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea
Closing Thoughts: Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea
The result sees Chelsea climb back into the top four, via a result that will fill Blues fans with confidence as we move into the business end of the season.
Easily one of the best displays under Tuchel so far, the dominant win is the perfect way to bounce back from the humiliating defeat against West Brom last week, and if Chelsea can carry this form forward, we may be on for a season that will live long in the memory.
Written by Dom Domaingue (@dmdsport)
Edited by Rob Pratley
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