Chelsea faced a Palace team defending deep inside their own half during the first half. Palace were aggressive to push up and close down forward passes made inside their block, and the team would collectively narrow towards the middle to close down the ball. This allowed Palace to recover the ball and even push Chelsea to play backwards. Palace did give away a few fouls in dangerous positions outside their own box, but Chelsea were unable to profit from them.
When Chelsea were successful at playing between lines (Kovacic often drawing pressure onto him before carrying the ball and finding passes forward), the drawing-in of Palace’s block narrow towards the ball would allow Chelsea to move the ball into wide areas and create opportunities around the box. Both Mount and Willian on the inside and between lines would help with moving the ball in these situations (often from Abraham’s layoff) to either find James high and overlapping on the right to cross the ball into the box early, or to find Pulisic on the left, where he could dribble with the ball quickly and drive towards the box — taking a fair few shots on goal.
Palace struggled to gain territory with the ball during the half, while Chelsea didn’t concede too many fouls that would’ve allowed the visitors an easy platform to move forward. Chelsea also recovered the ball quickly when lost inside Palace’s half.
Chelsea continued a high position as the half went on, and had a late chance (Willian’s shot blocked by Cahill), but the game went into halftime level.
Early on during the second half Chelsea’s continued passes between lines and quick combinations paid off by creating the chance for Abraham to score and give Chelsea the lead — Kovacic again driving forward with the ball and passing to Willian for the flick onto Abraham.
EPL defenders should know by now: you can't leave space to Abraham... pic.twitter.com/wGJFvDa85n— Last Row (@lastrowview) November 9, 2019
Following the goal, Palace began to hold on to the ball more as Chelsea dropped off to defend their own half. This allowed Chelsea to pressure just the forward passes rather than chase the ball high consistently, and they defended well collectively as a team.
Palace could advance forward on the wings to reach the final third, but from there they couldn’t break Chelsea’s defence down to create any chances or hold onto the ball for long. Meanwhile, Chelsea continued to play between lines and switch to the wings to attack, which would see Pulisic driving with the ball into the box, finding Batshuayi, and continuing his run into the box to score from the deflected shot and give Chelsea a comfortable lead.
xG map for Chelsea - Crystal Palace— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 9, 2019
more of the same dominance pic.twitter.com/easE2otRxj
Chelsea consistently played passes between lines and attacked from these positions throughout the game, despite Palace’s deep block and aggressive backline. Palace couldn’t get out of their half with the ball during the first half, and it was only after Chelsea took the lead when Palace would be able to even hold onto the ball, let alone look to score. But Chelsea’s defence continued to remain strong to keep Palace from creating and Chelsea’s second then killed the game off.