The Blues scored the first goal early on when an injury to Gary Cahill left Willian free down the right and we took full advantage of the fortunate break, Olivier Giroud turning in his low cross from close range.
We got our second inside half-an-hour, Willian again the provider as a he released Christian Pulisic to beat his man and smash in at the near post. However Palace pulled one back before half-time, when Wilfried Zaha fired in an powerful shot from long range which gave Kepa Arrizabalaga no chance.
A brief flurry of goals midway through the second half saw us regain our two-goal advantage when substitutes Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham combined for the latter to finish calmly, but the Eagles responded inside a minute to peg us back to 3-2 through Christian Benteke.
We had to survive late pressure in injury time, but brilliant interventions from Kepa and Kurt Zouma were enough to give us all three points.
Early jitters put to bed
Chelsea started positively, looking to get the ball into Olivier Giroud in an advanced position right from the off, but it was the home side which had the first effort on goal, when Ross Barkley’s under-hit back-pass put Kepa Arrizabalaga under pressure. Our goalkeeper was quick to come out and get to the ball first, but his clearance only reacheed James McArthur, although thankfully his ambitious attempted lob bounced well wide.
There was another nervy moment when Reece James came close to giving the ball away in our area, but those close calls seemed to wake the Blues up and we started to control possession afterwards, with Billy Gilmour starting to look influential in midfield.
We found the breakthrough in only the sixth minute, but it was in unfortunate circumstances from a Palace point of view. James’ pass down the line was being chased by Willian and Gary Cahill, when the former Chelsea defender suddenly went to ground clutching his hamstring.
That left Willian free to charge towards goal and square across the six-yard box for Olivier Giroud to turn it in from close range in the middle of a crowd. The home side were unhappy that play had continued when Cahill went down injured, but the referee had waved play on and the goal stood. To Giroud and many of the other Chelsea players’ credit, they went straight over to check on Cahill’s condition before play resumed.
Cahill was unable to continue, being replaced by Mamadou Sakho, and the new man was straight into the action as we went back on the attack right from the restart. Azpilicueta was released in plenty of space on the left and delivered a tempting cross into the box. Sakho beat Giroud to the ball, and Willian chose to take a touch as the clearance fell 12 yards out and ran out of space.
Kurt Zouma had a great chance to extend the lead from the resulting corner, but his downward header bounced narrowly wide of the far post.
We continued to enjoy most of the possession, as the midfield three looked more and more comfortable on the ball, but the best chance of a goal for both sides seemed to be on the break, our part of that coming through utilising space out wide with Willian and Christian Pulisic, who were switching positions to keep the Palace defenders busy.
The Eagles were barely being given a sight of goal, with their next effort not coming until the 24th minute when again it was an effort by McArthur from range, but it was bravely blocked by Andreas Christensen on the edge of the box
It wasn’t long before we made our possession count with the second goal, shortly after the first-half drinks break, although it was to come from a quick break. Mason Mount won the ball just inside our own half and released Willian, who carried possession upfield at pace and played a clever one-two with Giroud on the edge of the box.
The Brazilian slid the ball left to Pulisic, who stood up Joel Ward before beating him with a quick turn and smashing a left-footed shot past Vicente Guaita high at the near post. It was no less than our performance had deserved, and summed up the trouble our front three’s movement was causing the Palace players.
Lifeline for Palace
The Blues were starting to play with confidence and looking comfortable, and it seemed it might be a case of how many goals we would score before half-time. The Palace defenders were clearly rattled after going two behind and we continued to threaten with a series of corners.
However, out of nowhere the home side pulled one back. There didn’t seem to be much danger when a loose ball 40 yards out found its way to Wilfried Zaha, but the Ivorian international steadied himself and let rip with an unstoppable effort, which was much too powerful for Kepa to have any chance of stopping.
We threatened to restore our two-goal advantage quickly, but a promising breakaway was stopped by a cynical trip on Pulisic from Luka Milivojevic, which saw the Palace captain booked.
Three goals, three points and up to third in the Premier League! 💪 pic.twitter.com/yRza4GP1aZ
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) July 8, 2020
The one-way traffic we had been enjoying moments earlier had vanished after the Eagles’ timely confidence boost, becoming a much more even contest as half-time approached.
There were a couple scares on the verge of half-time, when Ward’s cross had Kepa worried as it grazed the top of the crossbar, but the linesman signalled that the ball had gone out of play first. Kepa had to be on his toes again soon afterwards, but was able to comfortably gather Benteke’s goal-bound header from a set-piece.
There was one last opportunity before the break and it came Chelsea’s way via a free-kick from wide on the left, after Pulisic was brought down again, but Dann managed to head clear with the last touch of the first half.
Back on top
We seemed to have regained our composure during the half-time break, coming out looking to regain control of the match and crafting out two early chances. The first saw James driving a low cross into the box but Palace eventually got the ball clear in the resulting scramble, and then Barkley tried his luck from range, but couldn’t find the target.
There was a brief moment of concern when Willian was struck in the face with a Van Aanholt clearance from point-blank range, but the Brazilian was okay to continue after a pause for treatment.
We were again looking the most likely to score and Giroud was unlucky not to get the goal after doing well to get the right side of his marker when a well-worked free-kick ended with James delivering a dangerous cross from the right, but the French striker’s header flew just over the crossbar with Guaita beaten.
There was a long break in play 15 minutes into the second half, when Milivojevic collided with Benteke while falling after an aerial challenge and needed lengthy medical attention on the pitch for a head injury.
When play resumed, the pause seemed to have affected both teams’ concentration, with a scrappy feel to the game. That was reflected at a Palace corner which dropped in the box, requiring good blocks from Zouma and Barkley to deny the opposition a chance.
Flurry of action
Lampard reacted immediately, choosing to bring on Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Giroud and Barkley, with 25 minutes left of the match.
It turned out to be an inspired move from our head coach, as the two subs soon combined to restore our two-goal lead. Loftus-Cheek broke through the middle and ran at the defence, drawing players towards him before playing the ball through for Abraham, who confidently side-footed in off the far post.
We didn’t have long to enjoy that extended lead, though, as Palace struck back in less than a minute when Benteke turned in Van Aanholt’s low cross from close range.
The pace of the match suddenly jumped after those two goals, with both teams launching quick attacks, but neither managing to create a clear chance as we entered the last 15 minutes.
We did manage to get to grips with possession again, helped by the introduction of Jorginho in midfield, and stifled Palace’s threats during the last 10 minutes, meaning it was us who next went close to scoring, with Mount and Willian both going close.
However, we needed heroics to see out the win in injury time. First Kepa did brilliantly to get finger tips to Dann’s low header and tip it onto the post, and then Zouma made an incredible last-ditch challenge with Benteke clear through and looking set to score right at the death.
Lampard made just one change to the starting XI which had beaten Watford so comfortably in our last match, and that was forced upon him by the hamstring injury N’Golo Kante suffered in that victory. He was replaced in the centre of a three-man midfield by Billy Gilmour, making his second start in the Premier League and second overall since the resumption of football last month.
Giroud’s on fire
Olivier Giroud’s prolific form either side of the restart continued as he scored the opening goal, the fifth time he has found the net in his last eight Premier League appearances.
That is in contrast with the three he had managed in his previous 38 games in that competition.
The run started back back in February when he opened the scoring in our win at Tottenham and he got another in our last match before lockdown, completing the 4-0 victory over Everton.
He continued that form when football returned last month, getting the winner over Aston Villa and the first against Watford, before putting us ahead again at Selhurst Park.
Up to third
That win means we climb one place to third in the Premier League, one point ahead of Leicester City who draw at Arsenal in the night’s later kick-off.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Zouma, Christensen, Azpilicueta (c); Mount, Gilmour, (Jorginho 80) Barkley (Loftus-Cheek 65); Willian, Giroud (Abraham 65), Pulisic
Unused subs: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Pedro, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi
Scorers: Giroud 6, Pulisic 28, Abraham 71
Crystal Palace (4-1-4-1): Guaita; Ward, Dann, Cahill (Sakho 6), Van Aanholt; Milivojevic (c) (Meyer 88); Ayew (Townsend 81), McArthur (McCarthy 81), Kouyate, Zaha; Benteke
Unused subs: Hennessey, Woods, Mitchell, Pierreck, Riedewald
Scorers: Zaha 35, Benteke 72
Booked: Milivojevic 37
Referee: David Coote