Frank Lampard and Chelsea needed a mood-elevator and it was Ben Chilwell, who was among the highly rated sign-ups this summer, made it clear that the mood in Stamford Bridge does not tone down.
In the first half, it seemed that Crystal Palace had the edge over the Blues by keeping the back and midfield narrower enough so that it disturbs the free-flowing nature of Lampard’s front-liners. Crystal Palace hardly moved with the ball forward and when they did, they left acres of spaces in front of them with almost 6 players parking around the Chelsea goal.
Such movements with the ball paved the opportunity for the Blues to capitalize – Kai Havertz broke on the counter and fed Timo Werner in the left inside channel, but his strike with the right foot was saved by but Vicente Guaita.
Then Azpilicueta looked for the quick switch of play during a transition towards Werner from right to left, but Ward was there to break up the cross. Meanwhile, Tammy Abraham rose highest in the box from the resulting corner from Chilwell, but his efforts went wide.
Chelsea were showing signs of a breakthrough, but the compactness of Crystal Palace and lack of decisiveness denied the Blues in the first half.
But the breakthrough came from an unlikely source!
A mistake at the back from Sakho allowed Chelsea to take the lead.
Hudson-Odoi tried to beat the challenge from Sakho, who halted his progress. However, he sliced his clearance straight to Azpilicueta. The Spaniard lifted a cross into the box where Abraham diverted it into the path of Chilwell. The left-back hammered a left-footed strike past Guaita into the net to notch his first goal for the club.
Chelsea rediscovered their decisiveness.
Crystal Palace lost their compactness and targeted the right flank of Blues – 42% of their attacks came from there with 23% from the middle of the pitch. It allowed the Blues to load the left flank – 37% of the attack came from there and it was Chilwell, who was found effective again a few moments later.
Chilwell discovered his corner repelled, but the Blues recycle possession. The England full-back gets a second chance and puts his delivery on the money. Zouma gets above Kouyate and glanced his header away from Guaita into the top-right corner.
Crystal Palace broke down and gave away two penalties from which Jorginho scored and even though Azpilicueta was forced to step in and stop Abraham taking the second penalty of the Blues, and ensured that the certified penalty-taker of Chelsea ensures the fourth goal.
Chelsea’s past two games were marked by inconsistency. They were excellent to come back and draw 3-3 with West Brom last week only after they had been so poor in the first 45 minutes, while Tuesday’s EFL Cup exit to Tottenham on penalties saw them surrender early control of the match.
Chelsea and Lampard badly needed this victory.