Chelsea beat Crystal Palace 3-2 in a thriller at Selhurst Park as Christian Pulisic scored once again for the Blues as they momentarily moved up to third in the Premier League table.
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Olivier Giroud and Pulisic put Chelsea 2-0 up in the first half but Wilfried Zaha pulled one back with a great strike from distance. Tammy Abraham jumped off the bench to make it 3-1, then Christian Benteke made it 3-2 as Chelsea survived some scary moments late on as Scott Dann hit the post and Kurt Zouma made a sublime last-gasp tackle in the 95th minute.
With the win Chelsea now have 60 points with four games to go, while Palace have lost four of their five games since the restart and sit in 14th place with 42 points.
Three things we learned
1. Pulisic does it again: Three goals in five games since the restart for the USMNT winger and Palace struggled to contain him. They tried to kick him all over the pitch and had a central midfielder in McArthur doubling up on him with a full back. And Pulisic still scored. A constant treat, his pace was an outlet for Chelsea and alongside Bruno Fernandes, he’s been the best player in the PL since the restart. Pulisic and Willian switched flanks multiple times throughout and Pulisic Watch gives you an idea of just how good he was.
2. Chelsea’s defensive woes continue: Chelsea were really good in attack but pretty woeful defensively. Sound familiar? Yep. Kepa should have stopped Zaha’s strike. Yes, he hit it hard but it was central. Andreas Christensen was beaten too easily on Palace’s second goal and Chelsea did their best to chuck away the win late on. Lampard needs a new left back, center back and goalkeeper if he’s going to turn Chelsea into genuine title contenders. They missed N’Golo Kante through injury and it showed but in midfield and attack they look pretty set and have lots of options. At the back they did not. That needs to change.
3. Palace need Zaha on the ball more: He spanked home a fine goal and created key chances late on, but Zaha wasn’t on the ball enough. Chelsea had Reece James trying to lock him down and Palace need Zaha in more central areas. When he drifts around he is so tough to stop.
Man of the Match
Willian – He was everywhere for Chelsea, setting up two goals and always an outlet. His experience on the ball helped them ease some of the pressure. Hard to believe his Chelsea career may be over in a few weeks. Also, Pulisic was very, very close to being named the main man once again.
Chelsea took the lead in fortunate circumstances as former Chelsea defender Gary Cahill went down with a big injury out wide and Willian raced clear on goal and found Giroud to sweep home the opener.
Mamadou Sakho replaced the injured Cahill and Palace were all over the place defensively. Soon after Kurt Zouma headed wide from a corner as the Frenchman was 10 yards out and should have doubled Chelsea’s lead.
Pulisic did make it 2-0 after the drinks break as Willian found him on the left and he did superbly to shift the ball onto his left foot and he slammed home at the near post to score his third goal in his last five games.
Just as it looked like Chelsea would run away with things, Zaha smashed home from 30 yards out as his thunderbolt from distance caught out Kepa, who may have done better with the effort, and it was game on.
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Pulisic buzzed around in the box but Chelsea couldn’t quite find his runs as Palace were under pressure. Giroud then headed a wonderful Reece James cross over as Chelsea clicked through the gears in the second half. Palace did come back into the game in the final 25 minutes as they peppered the Chelsea goal with crosses.
Chelsea then brought on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Abraham and the duo combined as RLC dinked the ball to Abraham who slotted home off the far post and in to make it 3-1. Moments later Palace made it 3-2 as Patrick van Aanholt worked his way into the box and teed up Benteke to tap home and set up a wild finish.
Abraham went close to scoring another as Chelsea were dangerous on the counter but Chelsea almost imploded defensively once again late on. First, Dann hit the post with a header as Kepa looked to have got a fingertip on it. Then Zouma arrived just on time to deny Benteke who was somehow clean through on goal in the 95th minute.
Lampard was relieved at the final whistle as Chelsea edged to a hugely important victory.