Chelsea beat Crystal Palace to ease pressure



By Olawale Alabi

A second-half goal from Kai Havertz earned nervy Chelsea their first English Premier League (EPL) win of 2023 on Sunday in London.

They secured a 1-0 victory over lively Crystal Palace at the Stamford Bridge, easing the pressure on manager Graham Potter after a poor run of form.

The German striker nodded in a cross from Hakim Ziyech in the 65th minute following a short corner-kick.

It was only the second league win in 10 matches for the home side who remain in an unaccustomed 10th place half-way through the season.

“The last few weeks were tough,” Havertz later said. “A lot of things changed this year. We have so many injuries, 10 to 12 injured players.

“Today we had five young players in the starting 11, they are doing a really good job at the moment.”

Chelsea are missing influential players such as England forward Raheem Sterling and wingers Reece James and Ben Chilwell as well as France midfielder N’Golo Kante through injury.

Stop-gap Portuguese loan winger Joao Felix was also absent after being banned for three matches following a red card in his first game for the club against Fulham  on Thursday.

On Sunday, Chelsea were on top for much of the entertaining if scrappy derby, but Crystal Palace kept goalkeeper Kepa busy with efforts from Tyrick Mitchell, Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha.

He was forced into a leaping save from Cheick Doucoure towards the end of the second half.

Chelsea had chances after surging runs from 18-year-old wingback Lewis Hall and recent 19-year-old addition Carney Chukwuemeka.

But it was 38-year-old Brazil defender Thiago Silva who forced Crystal Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita into his first fine save midway through the first half.

The home side had to hang on for seven added minutes as Crystal Palace laid siege to their goal.

They exposed their defensive frailty with former Monaco defender Beloit Baddish playing his first game for the club in a makeshift back-line.

“Today we are happy for the three points,” said Potter, who took over from Thomas Tuchel in September.

“Today was about getting the victory —– park it as three valuable points against a team that was pushing as well.”

Crystal Palace are in 12th place, six points behind Chelsea.

Midway through the first half Chelsea announced Ukrainian winger Mykhailo Mudryk had become their fifth signing of the January transfer window.

The 22-year-old received loud applause at half-time, when he waved from the pitch, a Ukraine flag draped round his shoulders.

“He is a young player with exciting quality in the final third. He is very fast and direct and I think the crowd will like him,” Potter said.

Before kick-off, former Chelsea players who had been coached by or appeared alongside Gianluca Vialli joined the two playing teams.

They were there to pay tribute to the former Italy international and Chelsea player-manager who died 10 days earlier.

Huge banners celebrating the former Sampdoria and Juventus striker were unfurled in the stands and fans chanted his name throughout the match.(Reuters/NAN)