Chelsea got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over London neighbours Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, following back-to-back losses against Manchester United and Manchester City.
The Blues welcomed N’Golo Kante back to the fold after he missed last weekend’s match against City through illness, and Antonio Conte surprisingly started Olivier Giroud ahead of Alvaro Morata, reverting from the false nine system he employed, rather unsuccessfully, against the Premier League leaders.
Palace, meanwhile, were also able to welcome a player back, with Wilfried Zaha returning from a knee injury. But Roy Hodgson thought it best to start him on the bench, giving Jeffrey Schlupp the nod instead.
The home side burst out of the blocks and were certainly more positive than they were last Sunday. And they could have gone ahead quite early through Giroud, who hit a close range shot straight at Wayne Hennessey in the ninth minute from Kante’s pass in the box.
The French striker couldn’t be blamed, though, as his focus was kept on the ball’s trail until it reached his foot.
Chelsea’s early dominance paid off in the 25th minute, however. Willian, the Blues’ in-form attacker, gave his side the lead with a strike from outside of the box after cutting in on his right from the left flank to unleash a low shot that deflected off Martin Kelly to beat the Eagles keeper.
The goal was the Brazilian’s fifth in as many games, also marking his highest tally since joining the Blues, as it was his 13th of the season.
Willian has now scored 12 and made 5 assists in his last 18 games. Where there’s a Will…#cfc
— Lee Parker (@Leeparker_tv) March 10, 2018
The Blues would double their lead five minutes later after some brilliant play, inclusive of an aesthetic dummy from Willian and a lay-off from Hazard, that ultimately forced an own goal from Kelly after Davide Zappacosta’s shot.
A goal-line clearance by James Tomkins robbed Giroud of his first Premier League goal for the home side after Hazard unselfishly teed one up for him in the box just before half-time. But Conte’s men would go into the break in fine spirits with a 2-0 lead.
Hodgson started the second half with Zaha, understandably in search of an offensive spark. They did begin the period much better than the preceding one, almost halving Chelsea’s lead through Alexander Sorloth, whose shot hit the post after Andreas Christensen gave the ball away carelessly to send the striker bearing down on Thibaut Courtois with no blue shirt in sight.
Kante somehow made it across in time to put Sorloth off, however.
Moments later, the Blues broke away on a counter with Willian leading the charge. The winger found Giroud on his left side and the Frenchman crossed back across the goal; Willian’s resulting shot ended up getting kept out by another last-ditch block from Tomkins.
Conte took Giroud off for Morata with 20 minutes left to go. The ex-Arsenal forward was visibly disappointed to come off but must have been proud of his performance despite not scoring.
Things got a little heated nearing the end of the match, with Tomkins getting into a scrap with Marcos Alonso just before a Palace goal got disallowed through
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.
Bench: Caballero, Ampadu, Bakayoko, Emerson, Moses, Pedro, Morata.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Kelly, Van Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Benteke, Sorloth.
Bench: Carvalieri, Sakho, Souare, Fosu-Mensah, Riedewald, Lee, Zaha.