The spectre of Sam Allardyce hung over Chelsea’s trip to Crystal Palace. The Blues were beaten by Big Sam’s West Bromwich Albion last weekend, putting a stop to their incredible unbeaten run across all competitions. Thomas Tuchel’s side used the midweek trip to Spain for its Champions League quarterfinal tie as a means to purge the humiliating memories. However, doubts remained over the team’s mental state, which has been an issue in the past.
Chelsea travelled to South London to take on the Eagles—a team Allardyce himself had coached not that long ago. However, any fears of a West Brom-esque collapse were erased within the first 10 minutes, with the Blues racing to a two-goal lead. Kai Havertz gave his side the lead in the 8′ before turning provider for Christian Pulisic two minutes later. Kurt Zouma scored Chelsea’s third of the night from a set-piece to become the league’s top-scoring defender this season. Christian Benteke—one of those forwards who never seems to score unless it’s against Chelsea—scored again to bring Palace within two. However, Pulisic restored the Blues’ three-goal lead in the 78′. They would hold onto that lead until the full-time whistle.
With the three points in the bag, we take a look at how the players fared in this one:
Edouard Mendy (Goalkeeper): 7/10
It is difficult to assign a rating to someone who barely touched the ball during the match. Edouard Mendy was a spectator in goal for 90 minutes, even so during Crystal Palace’s one key chance—which it converted.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Centreback): 7/10
The skipper put in a solid display marred only by Benteke’s goal. Cesar Azpilicueta was indeed caught out of position as Palace moved the ball around for its one goal in the match, but otherwise didn’t put a foot wrong.
Kurt Zouma (Centreback): 8/10
Just as he had done in the reverse fixture, Zouma scored against Palace to make it 3-0 to Chelsea within the half-hour. The Frenchman rose highest to head in a delicious Mason Mount delivery for his fifth goal of the season. He was solid defensively too and helped contain a Palace onslaught in the early minutes of the second half.
Antonio Rudiger (Centreback): 7/10
Antonio Rudiger was left out of the starting XI by Tuchel for the West Brom game. The German returned to the team against Palace and nearly kept a clean sheet. He was caught in no man’s land for the Benteke goal, but did well overall on the night.