Chelsea survived Crystal Palace’s comeback as a brace from Alvaro Morata and a Pedro goal meant Andros Townsend’s second-half equaliser had little impact.
The headline team news saw Eden Hazard settle for a place on the subs bench alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek who spent last season with the Eagles. The two sides impeccably observed a minute’s silence before kick-off for the late Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and the four others onboard the helicopter, that passed away last Saturday.
The opening exchanges of the match were rather boring with neither side having a sighting of goal. The visitors looked dangerous on the break despite the Blues controlling the tempo as you’d expect in front of their own fans.
After just over half an hour of Premier League mediocrity, Chelsea broke the deadlock through Morata. Persistence from Pedro led to him finding his international counterpart inside the six-yard box who bought some space with a great touch before stabbing a great volley past Wayne Hennessey.
Willian then had the ball in the back of the net but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman who had raised his flag. After latching onto Pedro’s deflected strike, he looked marginally offside but video replays showed it may not have been the correct decision. Roy Hodgson must have been keen to get his players down the tunnel at that point with them firmly under pressure.
The Eagles came out in the second period looking to haul themselves back into the match and they did so within 10 minutes of the restart. James McArthur picked out a great through ball for Townsend who still had plenty to do 25 yards from goal, beating David Luiz in a foot race before emphatically firing beyond the reach of Kepa with his right foot.
The Blues’ Brazilian centre back should have redeemed himself and put his side in front when he was picked out inside the box from Willian’s cross but Hennessey reacted well to turn his header behind. It didn’t matter too much as the home side got their noses back in front and it was Morata with his third goal in two league games.
Hazard, who had been introduced from the bench following the equaliser, floated a free-kick towards the back post where it was taken down by his attacking partner and finished fantastically from a tight angle. Maurizio Sarri’s side certainly had their tails up at this point and only had to wait five minutes to put the game beyond doubt.
Some patient build-up saw the ball worked out wide towards Marcos Alonso who took time and sent in a low cross towards his waiting team-mates. Pedro was on hand to turn the ball into the back of the net for his third league goal of the campaign.
In the final moments of injury time, the perfect hat-trick chance was presented to Morata as he found himself 40 yards from goal with just the keeper to beat. As he powered towards the penalty area, his decision to lob Hennessey was the wrong one and made it very comfortable for the Welsh stopper to collect.
A trip to Belarus awaits Chelsea ahead of their match against BATE Borisov on Thursday night before they return to London for the visit of Everton to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.