Chelsea were at their irrepressible best as they thrashed Crystal Palace 4-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday evening.Christian Pulisic netted twice, with Kai Havertz – in his best Premier League appearance for the Blues – and Kurt Zouma also scoring.
Three-nil was scant reward for the West London side’s first-half dominance and Palace briefly looked like they might get back into the game when Christian Benteke nodded home.
Pulisic’s second with 12 minutes remaining put the result beyond any doubt and ensured Thomas Tuchel’s side go back into fourth position and go into Wednesday’s Champion’s League, return leg with Porto in supreme confidence.
TALKING POINT – WHAT AN ABERRATION THE WEST BROM MATCH WAS
If you ignore that incredible game (a 5-2 reverse after seven straight clean sheets), Chelsea are in as good form as any team in Europe.
Their defence appears near impregnable, and the link up play between midfield and attack is as slick as Manchester City’s.
Tuchel’s insistence on a short passing game has clearly paid off with players knowing and executing their role to perfection, keeping the ball and playing with an impetus which puts opponents on the back foot.
Chelsea have had an incredible knack of mid-season managerial replacements leading to fine end of season results and this side looks in tremendous shape to qualify for next year’s Champions League, by finishing in the top four – and quite possibly winning Europe’s Premier competition.
MAN OF THE MATCH – KAI HAVERTZ (CHELSEA)
Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount can consider themselves very unlucky, perhaps Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho too, but when Chelsea won the game in the first half their German forward was supreme.
After a transfer fee well in excess of £60 million from Bayer Leverkusen, it was a slow start for Havertz but all of sudden he looks every bit the wunderkind who was seen as Germany’s most talented young player.
Even amongst elite company his first touch sets him apart and his link up play with Pulisic and Mount shows why Tuchel wants him to be the spearhead of the side ahead of more natural number nines Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud.
Though he took his goal superbly, with better finishing he could have had four, the only downside to a superb display.
Crystal Palace: Guaita 7; Ward 6, Cahill 7, Kouyate 6, Van Aanholt 6; Ayew 6, Milivojevic 5 Riedewald 5, Eze 5; Zaha 5, Benteke 7.Subs: Schlupp 7, McCarthy 6, Townsend 6.
Chelsea: Mendy 6; Azpilicueta 7, Zouma 8, Rudiger 7; Hudson-Odoi 7, Jorginho 8, Kovacic 8, Chilwell 7; Pulisic 8, Havertz 9*, Mount 9.Subs: Kante 6, James 7, Ziyech 6.
9’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! Havertz classily guides the ball into the far corner after first dispossessing Eze in the penalty area and then finding the ball played back to him from Hudson-Odoi.
11’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! Blasted home by Pulisic after Havertz pulled back to the American playmaker who gave the goalkeeper no chance from the corner of the six-yard box.
23’ Havertz looking the best he has since moving to Chelsea. He takes a long ball from Jorginho and flicks it over the head of van Aanholt before aiming a volley at goal that Guaita saves on the stretch.
31’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! He threatened a few minutes ago and this time Zouma did head home, rising high above Cahill to head home Mount’s free kick into the roof of the net leaving the Palace keeper with no chance.
63’ GOAL FOR PALACE! That didn’t seem like it was coming. Schlupp immediately puts in the first good cross his team has managed all game and Benteke heads home with aplomb.
78’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! A fine low cross from the right flank from James finds Pulisic at the far post and he slots home easily.