European champions Chelsea kicked off their Premier League campaign with a routine 3-0 win over London rivals Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Three days after winning the UEFA Super Cup on penalties against Villarreal, adding to May’s Champions League triumph, the Blues dominated against Palace from start to finish.
Christian Pulisic was brought into the side as one of five changes from that midweek cup win and scored before half-time to add to Marcos Alonso’s 27th-minute opener.
Palace’s first game under Patrick Vieira went from bad to worse as Trevoh Chalobah marked his league debut for Chelsea with a superb goal, giving the returning home fans plenty of reason to celebrate.
Made in Cobham.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 14, 2021
Goalscorers Alonso and Pulisic combined early on as the latter glanced a header on target for Vicente Guaita to keep out.
Mason Mount tested Guaita from a free-kick, but the Palace shot-stopper could not get anywhere near Alonso’s attempt, the wing-back curling the ball over the wall and into the net from 25 yards.
That was Chelsea’s 50th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League – only Manchester United (64) have more – and they deservedly doubled their lead in the 40th minute.
Guaita spilled Mount’s low cross from the right and Pulisic took full advantage by firing home the loose ball from close range.
Chelsea did not take their foot off the gas and had a third goal before the hour mark thanks to academy graduate Chalobah’s long-ranger that went in off the left-hand post.
The hosts continued to threaten without finding a way through, but Tuchel would have been equally pleased with a first clean sheet in five league games stretching back into last season.
What does it mean? Chelsea off to strong start
This Premier League campaign may be the most competitive yet in terms of the title race, with Chelsea very much among the favourites following the return of Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee.
While the prolific striker did not feature in this opening game, the hosts still looked impressive pretty much from the first whistle against a Palace side very much under construction.
Chelsea have now won eight league games in a row against Palace and, while tougher tests lie in wait, this was a very promising start for Tuchel’s men.
Pulisic punishes Palace
United States international Pulisic, who perhaps still has a point to prove in what is his third campaign at Chelsea, simply loves playing against Palace.
He has now scored five goals in five Premier League games against the Eagles, accounting for 36 per cent of his 14 goals in the competition.
Werner to make way?
Lukaku will likely be ready to start Chelsea’s next match and Tuchel has a big decision to make in terms of his attacking line-up.
Werner provides qualities that go beyond scoring goals, but he was on the periphery here as he registered just one shot and managed only 28 touches of the ball – the fewest of any outfield Chelsea starter – despite playing 90 minutes.
Key Opta Facts
– Crystal Palace have lost more Premier League matches against Chelsea than they have versus any other side in the competition’s history (19).
– Chelsea became the third side to record a winning run of eight or more games in a row in the Premier League against Crystal Palace, after Tottenham between September 2015 and September 2019 (nine) and Liverpool between August 2017 and May 2021 (eight).
– Alonso’s strike was Chelsea’s 50th direct free-kick goal in Premier League history, with only Manchester United (64) netting more in the competition.
– Palace have lost seven of their past nine Premier League games (W2), with Patrick Vieira also the third Palace manager in a row to lose their first game in charge (also Roy Hodgson and Frank De Boer).
– Chalobah (22y 40d) became the second-youngest Chelsea player to score on their Premier League debut for the club after Paul Hughes (20y 274d) versus Derby County in 1997.
Chelsea face rivals Arsenal on their return to Premier League action in eight days’ time, while Palace host newly promoted Brentford next Saturday.