Chelsea bounced back from their Christmas Eve humbling by beating Crystal Palace 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Mauricio Pochettino named the Blues’ youngest ever starting lineup in the Premier League era and they looked far more assured of themselves on their return to home soil.
The visiting Eagles put up a good fight but fell short at the last to ensure their miserable run against Chelsea continued.
How the game unfolded
The away end thought their side had taken a fifth-minute lead when Ebere Eze’s low free-kick struck the side-netting, only realising seconds later the ball had gone the wrong side of the post.
Surprise starter Ian Maatsen went close to breaking the deadlock after meeting a fine through ball from Mykhailo Mudryk, but Tyrick Mitchell retreated to clear the ball off the line in the nick of time.
Soon after, Chelsea notched themselves ahead. Malo Gusto carried on a run over from right to left after some neat link-up play with Christopher Nkunku, crossing for Mudryk to finish from close range.
The Ukrainian went close to adding his second midway through the first half when sent through by a clever back-heel from Nicolas Jackson, only to be denied by the sprawling frame of Dean Henderson.
Nkunku was next to be freed by Jackson, but he completely missed the ball when trying to fire at goal and his pocket was picked by Chris Richards.
In first-half stoppage time, Palace found a leveller. Benoit Badiashile’s poor clearance was pounced upon by Richards, and Jordan Ayew crossed the loose ball for Michael Olise to finish freely at the far post after evading Levi Colwill and Moises Caicedo.
After the break, Djordje Petrovic was forced into a low save when Jean-Philippe Mateta fired at his near post as Palace ramped up the pressure.
Chelsea should have gone back in front when Jackson was played in by Conor Gallagher, but he shanked his shot to the frustration of the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Seconds later, Jackson thought he had atoned for his error. Thiago Silva’s cross was deflected upwards by Eze, and Jackson pulled away from Nathaniel Clyne to provide a simple finish beyond Henderson. However, the Senegal international was ruled offside and the goal was chalked off.
Down the other end, Olise was twice in quick succession denied the chance of a brace, first by a flying block by Gusto and then a save at the near post from Petrovic.
With second-half stoppage time looming, Chelsea were awarded a penalty after a VAR check, with Eze adjudged to have tripped Noni Madueke. The winger himself stepped up and sent Henderson the wrong way to seal the points.
GK: Djordje Petrovic – 7/10 – Proving his worth as a worthy stand-in for the injured Robert Sanchez.
RB: Malo Gusto – 7/10 – Played a huge role in the game’s opening goal, floating across the pitch ensuring the move reached Mudryk. Defended well on the right and left.
CB: Axel Disasi – 5/10 – Still seems out of synch with his teammates. Not necessarily at fault for a goal but shaky throughout.
CB: Benoit Badiashile – 5/10 – Like compatriot Disasi was hardly confident in his defending.
LB: Levi Colwill – 4/10 – Put in a blender by Olise. Lacked the requisite pace and lost the winger for the equaliser. Hooked before the hour mark.
CM: Moises Caicedo – 4/10 – Communication error with Colwill led to Palace grabbing an equaliser from nowhere. Sloppy in possession all night long.
CM: Conor Gallagher – 6/10 – Grew in confidence the more the game went on and the more Chelsea found their back to the wall.
RM: Ian Maatsen – 5/10 – Didn’t look out of place but didn’t create a lot either.
AM: Christopher Nkunku – 8/10 – The connector. Chelsea’s attackers looked far more at ease due to the Frenchman’s presence, weaving his way between defenders and finding space.
LM: Mykhailo Mudryk – 8/10 – Stepped up to the plate with an electric and all-round first-half display. Quietened in the second half before being brought off with an ankle injury.
CF: Nicolas Jackson – 6/10 – A mixed evening. Bodied Palace’s defenders in the first half and brought others into play, but his wastefulness threatened to cost Chelsea again.
SUB: Romeo Lavia (58′ for Maatsen) – 6/10 – Finally made his Chelsea debut after long-term injury woes. Kept play ticking.
SUB: Thiago Silva (58′ for Colwill) – 6/10 – Opened up Palace with his long-range passing, opened up Chelsea with some wayward defending.
SUB: Noni Madueke (71′ for Mudryk) – 8/10 – The ultimate impact substitute. His introduction had the exact desired impact.
SUB: Armando Broja (71′ for Nkunku) – 7/10 – Threw himself about in a lively and useful cameo.
SUB: Alfie Gilchrist (90′ for Badiashile) – N/A – Made his senior debut in added time.
Subs not used: Marcus Bettinelli (GK), Lucas Bergstrom (GK), Leo Castledine, Alex Matos
Mauricio Pochettino – 8/10 – One of Chelsea’s better performances of the season and his substitutions worked perfectly.
GK: Dean Henderson – 6/10 – Made some key saves to keep Palace in the contest.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne – 5/10 – Given the runaround by Mudryk. A little relieved that Jackson’s goal was ruled offside.
CB: Joachim Andersen – 6/10 – Didn’t provide his usual passing range to open up a high Chelsea line. Defending was fine for the most part though.
CB: Marc Guehi – 6/10 – A confident performance on his return to Stamford Bridge, which is more than can be said for Chelsea’s starting centre-backs.
LB: Tyrick Mitchell – 6/10 – Excelled defensively for much of the evening but his efforts weren’t enough in the end.
DM: Chris Richards – 6/10 – The disruptor in midfield, breaking up Chelsea transitions one way or another.
CM: Jefferson Lerma – 6/10 – Pressed high alongside Eze when trying to win the ball back.
CM: Ebere Eze – 4/10 – Ultimately cost his side with a mistimed challenge inside the penalty area.
RW: Michael Olise – 8/10 – Showed exactly why Chelsea tried so hard to sign him, tormenting them from the off.
CF: Jean-Philippe Mateta – 6/10 – Bullied and bulldozed Chelsea’s backline.
LW: Jordan Ayew – 7/10 – Ran ever so hard for his team and looked flat out when substituted. Provided a fine assist for Olise.
SUB: Jeffrey Schlupp (79′ for Ayew) – 5/10
SUB: Matheus Franca (90′ for Lerma) – N/A
Subs not used: Remi Matthews (GK), James Tomkins, Omotayo Adaramola, Jairo Riedewald, Will Hughes, Naouirou Ahamada, David Ozoh
Roy Hodgson – 6/10 – Palace defended resolutely but were just a little too blunt in attack to steal a point.
Player of the match – Noni Madueke (Chelsea)