Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace
That’s six of the best for Chelsea.
After mounting their stunning comeback against Ajax in the Champions League, they’ve now clinched their sixth-straight win in the Premier League and, for now at least, are up to second in the table.
Who would have predicted that – certainly not the Premier League 2019 betting odds –when a transfer ban was imposed on them and a fairly rookie manager was appointed in fans’ favourite Frank Lampard?
This was a hard-fought success – Crystal Palace have often punched above their weight and made life difficult for more illustrious opponents under the guidance of Roy Hodgson – yet no one could deny the home side deserved this victory.
Highlights of the game
Premier League 2019 highlights were few and far between in the opening half.
Willian went close with a free-kick, then fellow Brazilian Emerson flashed one narrowly wide as Chelsea bossed possession, yet failed to create clear-cut opportunities.
Palace were not only hard to break down but were frustrating the home side, highlighted by the fact three Chelsea players were booked for illegally thwarting Palace counter-attacks.
Their resoluteness was summed up by a superb block from the returning Gary Cahill. The former Chelsea captain, who was afforded a warm welcome, made the crucial stop on the stroke of half-time just when it seemed Willian was about to break the deadlock.
Cahill, who spent seven years at Chelsea before joining Palace in the summer, barely put a foot wrong on his return to Stamford Bridge, and it took a special goal to finally end their resistance.
Mateo Kovacic found Willian, whose clever flick teed up Tammy Abraham, and the young striker kept his composure to strike home the opener.
It took an outstanding save from Vicente Guaita to keep out the in-form Christian Pulisic as Chelsea pushed for a second.
When James Tomkins headed wide from close range, there was a feeling Palace had missed their chance. And so it proved 12 minutes from time when Pulisic headed in a second after substitute Michy Batshuayi – who spent last season on loan with the Eagles – saw a deflected effort fall into the path of the American.
Chelsea had their sixth-straight win, Pulisic had his fifth goal in his last three games, and Lampard was all smiles.
The final word should go to the man in the opposite dugout, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on the occasion of his 300th Premier League game as a manager. He is the 15th person to reach this landmark and the sixth Englishman.
What a career he has had. One of the gentlemen of the game and an often under-valued coach whose low points were, in this SBOBET author’s view, held personally against him.
He was never given enough time at Liverpool where he took over a below-par side, while players let him down as his England reign came to an abrupt end with the national team’s debacle against Iceland in 2016.
He is a genuine English talent and one whose achievements should be lauded.
Abraham is the second-youngest player to reach double figures for Premier League goals for Chelsea after Dutchman Arjen Robben.
He is now level at the top of the scoring charts with Jamie Vardy (10).
Pulisic is the fourth American to score in three consecutive Premier League games, after Clint Dempsey (three times), Joe-Max Moore and Roy Wegerle.
The summer signing from Borussia Dortmund is only the second Premier League player to reach five goals and five assists in all competitions this season, after Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
Chelsea have won six consecutive top-flight matches for the first time since May 2017 under Antonio Conte in their most recent title-winning season.
Fikayo Tomori, 21, Mason Mount, 20, and Abraham, 22, have all come into the team, while Pulisic, 21, and 19-year-old Reece James, making his first Premier League start, ensured Lampard’s starting side was the club’s youngest ever in the Premier League.
Palace have only won two of their 18 top-flight away fixtures against Chelsea, both by 2-1 scorelines in August 2015 and April 2017 (drawn five, lost 11).
The Blues have scored nine goals in six league matches at Stamford Bridge this season, compared to 18 goals in six away fixtures.
Palace are winless in their last four Premier League matches. This was their 100th London derby in the Premier League.
It’s now time for the final international break of 2019 and, once club football returns, it’s a big one.
Chelsea travel to champions Manchester City, where they were humbled 6-0 last season. They then travel to Valencia looking to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Crystal Palace also have a big domestic duty of their own as they host league leaders Liverpool.
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