Chelsea returned to Premier League action for the first time in almost a month with a late 1-0 victory away at Crystal Palace. Hakim Ziyech’s 89th minute winner proved enough for the Blues, who made it five straight wins in all competitions.
Following Chelsea’s success in the Club World Cup seven days ago, Thomas Tuchel made four changes from the final against Palmeiras. Edouard Mendy continued in between the sticks which was his first Premier League match since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. Meanwhile, the back three remained unchanged which consisted of Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
In midfield, Callum Hudson-Odoi was ruled out through injury, with Malang Sarr playing at wing-back while on the opposing side, Christian Pulisic replaced Cesar Azpilicueta. The third change from Chelsea was in central midfield as Mateo Kovacic made way for Jorginho, who partnered N’Golo Kante. Further forward, Hakim Ziyech came in for the injured Mason Mount which was the fourth and final change made by Tuchel.
Meanwhile, for Crystal Palace, four changes were made by manager Patrick Vieira from the Eagles’ goalless draw away at Brentford last Saturday. Former Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne moved into the back four and replaced Joel Ward at right-back. The Eagles back four included Cobham graduate Marc Guehi, who partnered Joachim Andersen at centre-back.
There were two changes in midfield which saw James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyate come in for Will Hughes and Conor Gallagher, who was ineligible to face his parent club. Finally, in attack, Odsonne Edouard made way for Michael Olise, meaning Jordan Ayew started up front.
The first effort of the game fell the way of Crystal Palace. Wilfried Zaha pushed forward before playing the ball through to Michael Olise, whose shot drifted just wide. Not long later, the Blues came close to scoring after Antonio Rudiger’s ambitious shot from distance was kept out by Vincente Guaita.
Meanwhile, on 20 minutes, Chelsea had the best effort on goal up to that after N’Golo Kante was played through on goal but was denied by Guaita from inside the 18-yard box. Ten minutes later, the Blues continued to threaten as Hakim Ziyech slotted Romelu Lukaku through but Guaita was on hand to deny the Belgian before the flag went up for offside.
As the first half progressed, neither side had provided much threat in front of goal but the home side were starting to grow into the game. Shortly before the break, Crystal Palace missed a huge opportunity to take the lead. Olise played through Zaha, who beat the offside trap before striking wide from a tight angle.
Neither side were able to find the opening goal of the game in the opening 45 minutes with the score goalless at the break. Chelsea had a few good chances to score, the main effort coming from Antonio Rudiger early in the half. Meanwhile, the home side threatened on a couple of a occasions with Zaha and Olise showing signs of promise going forward. There was plenty to play for in the second half.
HT: Crystal Palace 0-0 Chelsea
Crystal Palace had the first shot of the second half nine minutes in as the ball fell to Jeffrey Schlupp on the edge of the area, whose effort was over. Meanwhile, up the other end, the away side started to threaten for the first time since the restart. However, Ziyech’s free-kick hit the wall before the follow-up was again blocked.
With 20 minutes to go, the Blues had another opportunity to take the lead. Ziyech delivered in a wonderful cross towards Kai Havertz but the German was unable to latch onto the cross. In the 75th minute though, Thomas Tuchel’s men had the ball in the back of the net. Mateo Kovacic played through Lukaku, whose effort was parried by Guaita into Ziyech, who tapped into an empty net. However, following a VAR check, the goal was disallowed due to Lukaku being offside in the build-up.
Not long later, Chelsea again pushed forward in search of the opening goal. Andreas Christensen crossed towards Havertz, who headed wide of the target. With just one minutes left of normal time, the Blues finally broke the deadlock and this time, the goal stood. Substitute Marcos Alonso delivered the ball into the box which reached Ziyech at the backpost, who pounced to slot home from close range.
With the match in added time, Zaha almost levelled for Palace. The Ivorian found space inside the Chelsea penalty area before his shot drifted inches wide of the post. However, in the end, Chelsea held out for the three points at Selhurst Park to move onto 50 points for the season.
FT: Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guaita (GK); Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; McArthur, Kouyate, Schlupp, Olise, Ayew, Zaha
Subbed on: Butland (for Guaita, 46 mins), Eze (for Ayew, 85 mins), Mateta (for McArthur, 90+2 mins)
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy (GK); Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Sarr, Jorginho (capt), Kante, Pulisic; Ziyech, Havertz, Lukaku
Subbed on: Kovacic (for Kante, 74 mins), Alonso (for Sarr, 74 mins), Loftus-Cheek (for Jorginho, 74 mins)
Goals: Ziyech (89 mins)
Written and Edited by Matt North (@MattNorth_)