Chelsea quickly took over the match after kickoff, with Crystal Palace mostly interested in sitting deep and batting away lobbed balls from centre to Olivier Giroud, who was present in the starting lineup today with Eden Hazard back in left wing duty. However, all their domination in ball retention did not translate in proper goalscoring chances. With that, Crystal Palace were allowed to free themselves up a bit and try to inflict some pain on us with Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha.
Set-pieces and long passes turned into the way to go for Chelsea, as Palace retreated to their own half. A Fàbregas-esque pass from Jorginho — which bodes well for us if reports of Cesc’s exit are true — had Giroud putting the ball past Vicente Guaita’s net in classic no.9 manner with a headed attempt. Unfortunately the goal did not stand as the Frenchman was offside by very few centimetres.
Par for the course, there were opportunities for Chelsea to add more to their own misery with shots hitting the goalpost in first half. First with Willian on a free kick, and then Ross Barkley on an overhead kick from a corner.
We had not been good enough to breach Palace until the second half. N’Golo Kanté, our lord and saviour, multipurpose midfielder and all-around threat (for the opposition) crowned his great performance with a penalty box goal from an assist by David Luiz. An absolute beauty.
And even though they were one goal down in the scoreboard, Palace’s immediate reaction was to sit deep and simply not allow the match to turn into a trashing. They eventually tried to kick into gear and give us all the trouble they were unable to throughout the match in the final minutes. But all to no avail, as we happily swept up the three points from the often tricky trip to Selhurst Park.
- The traditional no.9 is back on the menu, with Olivier Giroud starting today. Eden Hazard goes back to his usual, and preferred, role as left winger.
- No place in the starting lineup for Kovacic today despite a good performance against Watford last Wednesday. Maybe he is tired?
- Third goal of the season for Kanté, who continues to grow into more of an offensive threat from midfield after years dominating defensive duties for Leicester and Chelsea.
- Morata in for Giroud, who left the pitch feeling his left ankle. There was also Emerson for Willian, and another like-for-like substitution with Kovacic for Barkley.
- Mission accomplished: we now sit five points clear of fifth-place Arsenal. Neat!
- Next up, Southampton at home for the Premier League.