BY PAUL LAGAN at Stamford Bridge
Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic scored the goals that put Chelsea second in the Premier League as they overcame a hard-working, resilient but ultimately unambitious Crystal Palace outfit.
While this early kick-off means the Blues might be overtaken in that slot by either Manchester City or Leicester City, the fact they are sitting comfortably in the top four region as the league takes in an international break shows that when they return, away to Man City, they will be in a position to produce the result of the season at the Eithad as confidence will be sky high.
Place can take comfort in the knowledge that they won;t be fight a relegation battle this term and, if they could become a tad more potent up front, they could nudge into the top half at the season’s end.
Both sides started positively- Chelsea in particular, with Christian Pulisic twice threatening the Palace goal, the second time, in particular, on 12 minutes when the US winger zig-zagged through the Eagles rearguard – Vincent’s Guaita was equal to the task and smothered the near-post effort.
Chelsea’s dominance of possession failed to manifest itself in goals – several efforts zipping wide of the visitors’ goal, while a Mason Mount free-kick just outside the penalty area failed to beat the wall on 29 minutes.
Palace’s first effort on goal came two minutes later when a free-kick by Luka Milivojevic inched wide of Kepa’s far post.
Roy Hodgson was forced to make a substitution, bringing on Martin Kelly for right back Joel Ward just before half-time.
There were no changes at half-time by either side.
And it was business as usual with the `Blues in top and Palace defending tight at the black.
But on 52 minutes Pulisic wearied across the edge of the Palace area, he passed to Willian, who produced a deft flick that wrong-footed the Palace defence, and set up Tammy Abraham, who took one touch and slotted the ball perfectly beyond Guaita’s desperate dive and into the back of the net.
Pulisic stung the finger-tips of Guaita with a venomous right-footer on 57 minutes as the Blues went for the jugular.
Hodgson’s second replacement saw, James McArthur make way for Jeffrey Schlupp on 70 minutes.
Frank Lampard opted to bring on striker Michael Batshuayi with 18 minutes left on then lock, goal-scorer Abraham made way.
Then Belgian striker was instrumental in the Blues second goal on 7* minutes. He twisted and turned on the six-yard box before attempting a left-filet. That ball was blocked and in-running Pulisic nodded home.
That was the last act for the American as his replacement Callum-Hudson-Odoi was already set up on the halfway line to replace him.
James McCarthy came on for Chekhov Kouyate as the final substitution for the Eagles.
Billy Gilmour was given five minutes at the end as Mount left the field with the points wrapped up.
Teams: Chelsea, Kepa, Kante, Abraham, Willian, Zouma, Kovacic, Mount, Pulisic, James, Tomori, Emerson
Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, Azpilicueta, Gilmour
Palace: Guaita, Ward, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Kouyate, Ayew, Townsend, Zaha, McArthur, Cahill
Subs: Hennessey, Dann, Schlupp, Benteke, McCarthy, Kelly, Riedewald
Referee: Michael Dean