Alvaro Morata netted twice as Chelsea continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Crystal Palace were arguably the better of the two sides in the early exchanges as Chelsea struggled to find their feet. But, it was the Blues who ended up taking the lead after making good on their share of chances, as Pedro set up Alvaro Morata, who scored past Wayne Hennessey in the 33rd minute.
Chelsea conjured up a few more chances before half-time but failed to add to their advantage. Crystal Palace though, came charged post the interval, and went on to meet the equaliser, as Andros Townsend finished off a fine team move after combining with James McArthur. But, Chelsea soon took control of the proceedings by introducing Eden Hazard.
The Belgian made an instant impact as he supplied the assist for Morata and Chelsea’s second with a fabulous indirect free-kick. Five minutes later, the three points were all wrapped up, as Marcos Alonso threaded in a perfect cut-back from the left flank before Pedro applied the finishing touch with a first time shot.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 4, 2018
The Blues thus, continued their unbeaten start to the season and climbed up to second on the Premier League table, with Maurizio Sarri equalling a Premier League record in the process. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over the Chelsea players.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6/10
Kepa did not have a great deal to do in the match, with Palace not really threatening all that much despite the offensive action that they got in. The Spaniard also had a role to play in the same, however, as he quickly leapt off his line to shut off the threats. Couldn’t have done anything to stop Townsend’s effort from going in.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
Azpilicueta hasn’t quite been at his best this season, and it was a tough evening once again on Sunday, as Wilfried Zaha often left him back pedalling with his raw pace. But, the Chelsea skipper improved with each passing minute without ever being spectacular. Still, needs to do better.
Antonio Rudiger: 7/10
The best defender on show for Chelsea, Rudiger had the pace to negate the Palace attack for large parts of the game. The German international was dominant in the air as well while also spraying the passes forward effortlessly and effectively.
Where he did falter though, alongside the rest of the Chelsea backline, was in giving too much space to the Palace attack at times, which ended up being the reason his side conceded early in the second half.
David Luiz: 6/10
Luiz was another player who had his hands full with the pace and trickery of Zaha, Townsend and the likes. Found himself in a footrace with Townsend for Palace’s goal and there was only going to be one outcome in that event. Apart from that one moment, however, Luiz was largely solid and was even frustrated to be denied his first goal of the season by the outstretched Hennessey.
Marcos Alonso: 7/10
All too often Chelsea’s most potent outlet in the wide areas this season, Alonso was the brightest spark for the hosts on Sunday, with his relentless efforts to make a difference. But, he did not have a lot of joy for the first hour or so, as Palace resolutely defended with men behind the ball.
Alonso though, finally made a telling impact in the game, as his perfectly threaded in cross for Pedro resulted in the Blues’ third. Did not struggle much on the defensive side of the game, with Palace trying to exploit the opposite flank for the most part.
N’Golo Kante: 7/10
2018-19 hasn’t been Kante’s best for the West Londoners. But, on Sunday, the Frenchman turned showed a glimpse of his usual self, taking it upon himself to shut down Zaha and van Aanholt after the early exchanges. While he was colossal in his defensive duties, Kante wasn’t exactly crisp with his passing at times – an area of his game that needs improving.
Crystal Palace aimed to neutralise Jorginho’s output in order to get into the game, and their plan worked for large parts as Townsend and Meyer kept a check on him. The Italian international was also at fault for allowing McArthur the time and space to link up with Townsend. Had to resort to no-nonsense passes to keep play ticking, in what was a tough outing for Chelsea’s orchestrator.
Ross Barkley: 5/10
Chelsea’s in-form player coming into the game, Barkley had another chance to cement his place in the middle of the park. But, the Englishman took a few steps back, failing to provide a commanding presence in midfield. Solid in his defensive work, it was his presence – or lack thereof – in the final third that disappointed.
Barkley was sloppy with his passing and never quite threatened to make a difference whenever he was on the ball. Jettisoned for Kocacic midway through the second half.
Pedro’s game by numbers vs. Crystal Palace:
91% pass accuracy
2 fouls won
2 chances created
It’s a 9/10. 😇 pic.twitter.com/U1V4bGRwQB
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 4, 2018
Pedro hasn’t quite managed to scale the heights of the first few gameweeks ever since he returned from injury. But, the Spaniard looked to have put his struggles behind him on Sunday, producing a largely effective performance with two telling contributions to Chelsea’s win.
Set Morata up for his side’s first goal before rounding off the win with a splendid first time shot that was made to look easy owing to a perfect technique. Typically hard working off the ball as well, Pedro will aim to get back on track this season following this performance.
Alvaro Morata: 9/10
🍾 Man of the Match @ChelseaFC’s Alvaro Morata.
Attempts: 5 (most in match)
On target: 3 (most in match)
Touches in opp. box: 6 (2nd most in match)
Last 4 PL apps:
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 4, 2018
Maurizio Sarri has shown impeccable amount of patience with Morata this season while trying to instil confidence into him. And, his faith has been paid off in kind by the Spaniard, who seems to be getting back to top form at long last. The former Real Madrid man opened the scoring with a well taken goal, his second in as many league outings.
Morata then netted the winner with another fine finish. Sloppy at times on the ball, like every other Chelsea player. Even missed a glorious chance to complete a confidence-boosting hat-trick only to spurn the chance due to poor decision making. Still, several more positive signs than negative, signalling a possible return to his best.
Not the best of outings for Willian, who has cemented his place in the first-team setup lately. Appeared to be a little one dimensional at times, with his runs not threatening much. But, Chelsea were always in play whenever the Brazilian was on set-piece duty. Might have gone below Pedro in the pecking order, though.
Eden Hazard: 7/10
Sarri needed his talisman to make the difference in the final quarter of the game. And, as he has done for much of this season already, the Belgian stepped up once again, not even taking a couple of minutes before setting up the winner.
Always looked threatening thereafter without getting out of second gear. But, he had already turned the match around by then.
Mateo Kocacic: 7/10
Brought on for Barkley, Kovacic provided more control with precise and incisive passing. Looked more certain whenever on the ball and might have played his way back into the starting lineup.
Cesc Fabregas: N/A
On for the tiring Jorginho for the last ten minutes, Fabregas helped retain control of the game.