For the second time in just as many away London derbies, Chelsea almost managed to throw away three points. Fortunately, this time the 3-2 scoreline favored the Blues rather than our opponents, though we all probably aged a few years just in the final few minutes as Crystal Palace came close to scoring repeatedly, including with one effort that hit the post in the dying minutes of the game.
Replays showed that Kepa Arrizabalaga got a hand to Scott Dann’s header to divert it onto the far post and out, though Chelsea still needed a marvelous Kurt Zouma tackle after that to hang on to the win.
It certainly felt like a lucky escape for Chelsea, who move up to third after Leicester City were held 1-1 by Arsenal, though for head coach Frank Lampard, it was more about Chelsea not finishing the job.
“In the last five minutes maybe, yeah. We should have had the game done at 2-0. We should have controlled the game better and then at 3-2 we had good chances to finish off. With some slight wrong decisions maybe in the final third or final shot, and then it invites pressure.
“Kepa makes a great save, Kurt makes a great tackle. But in those last moments it was nerve-wracking for us. [...] It was definitely a goal saving tackle at the end. It saves us those two points. I am really pleased with him.”
The much-beleaguered Kepa was in the spotlight for less spectacular goalkeeping (again) earlier in the game, with many questioning his technique on Wilfried Zaha’s howitzer for Palace’s first goal, but the Chelsea goalkeeper made the save that was needed at the end, so perhaps we can all go home happy for once.
“I will watch [the first goal] back and speak with Kepa, but I haven’t got to that yet. I know that [Zaha] caught it well and then Kepa made a great save at the end, a fingertip save. That is big for us, it’s huge. That is what he is there for so credit to him for that one. We will analyse the other one.”
“That’s Kepa’s job and that’s what he is there for so I am really pleased for him. We need that to be a top team, you need your keepers to making saves at times for you to pull you through and he did that today.”
At the other end, Chelsea got strong performances from both strikers (Giroud and Tammy Abraham both among the goals), while both wingers continued their excellent form of late. Christian Pulisic got his third goal of Project Restart and Willian added two assists to keep the Chelsea attack humming.
“The hunger [Pulisic] has, the quality he is showing, and the end product, which is the main thing for me — the top players in the world in his area, attacking players, they score goals, win games and make a difference. They assist. Since the restart he has been fantastic.”
“[Willian] was extremely influential. I mean he and Christian are a threat for us at the minute. When you think of Willian and his situation, the impact he is having in all the games at the minute with his speed and how he controls the ball and his quality which we all see in every game, I am so pleased with him. He has been brilliant for us with both of those things and Willian deserves huge credit.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Chelsea have an extra day of rest — four instead of three! — before a tough away test on Saturday at Sheffield United, who are still in with an outside chance at the top six.