Hakim Ziyech’s late goal earned Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Early chances went begging for both teams, as Christian Pulisic couldn’t control his volley on the stretch from Hakim Ziyech’s teasing cross and N’Golo Kante fired straight at the keeper after being found brilliantly by Malang Sarr, while Wilfried Zaha was the culprit on two occasions for the home team.
The visitors soon settled and began creating chances of their own. Hakim Ziyech’s cross evaded Romelu Lukaku but fell for Christian Pulisic, who was unbalanced as he volleyed over with the goal gaping.
Vicente Guaita was forced into action shortly after, producing two excellent saves to keep the scores level. The first was superb, scrambling across to tip Antonio Rüdiger’s thumping drive past the post – it would have been a stunning goal from almost 40 yards.
The second was from close range, as N’Golo Kanté was suddenly found through on goal, but Guaita got down well to push it away.
But Palace were more than a match for the European champions, and will have felt hard done by not to go in at half-time 1-0 up – particularly after Zaha raced through on goal in added time, only for his shot from the angle to curl just past the post with Edouard Mendy beaten.
Far from being cowed by their frustration, the Eagles came out after the break by far the better side. McArthur in particular was a constant thorn in the sides of the visitors’ midfield, roared on by an increasingly febrile home crowd as a series of decisions went Chelsea’s way.
Olise was pulling the strings from the No 10 position, trying to set-up first Zaha and then Ayew. Schlupp fired over the top from just outside the area, after his headed effort was scrambled away.
Such was Palace’s dominance that Thomas Tuchel made a triple change, including replacing both central midfielders with 15 minutes to go.
It almost paid immediate dividends, with Lukaku slipped in behind; his shot was parried by Butland, but Ziyech tapped in the rebound. However, after a long VAR wait the goal was ruled out for offside, and the stands were bouncing once again.
It set up a grandstand conclusion to the game, as Palace pushed forwards in search of a winner.
However the goal would come at the other end, a late suckerpunch that saw Chelsea snatch all three points when it looked like they were clinging on. Marcos Alonso’s deep cross evaded Tyrick Mitchell and found Ziyech, who was perfectly placed to volley home.
The frustration was palpable from the home side, but you could feel the tension evaporate from an away end that had been stunned into long periods of silence before then.
Palace pushed in vain for the equaliser but it was not forthcoming, and in the end it was Chelsea to take a victory back to Stamford Bridge.
Crystal Palace: Guaita (Butland, HT), Clyne, Andersen, Guéhi, Mitchell, Kouyaté, McArthur, Ayew (Eze, 85), Olise, Schlupp, Zaha.
Subs not used: Kelly, Adaramola, Milivojevic, Hughes, Mateta, Edouard, Benteke.
Chelsea: Mendy, Rüdiger, Christiensen, Jorginho (Loftus-Cheek, 74), Silva, Kanté (Kovacic, 74), Lukaku, Pulisic, Ziyech, Havertz, Sarr (Alonso, 74).
Subs not used: Kepa, Werner, Chalobah, Niguez, Kenedy, Vale.
Photo Credit: ChelseaFC/Twitter