Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham Lead Chelsea to Win vs. Crystal Palace

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Tammy Abraham of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with teammate Christian Pulisic during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on November 09, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chelsea went second in the Premier League, at least temporarily, after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. 

The Blues won thanks to goals from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic, who impressed mightily on the day. Their finishing ensured Frank Lampard's team has moved above Leicester City and Manchester City in the standings, closing the gap on leaders Liverpool to five points.

Leicester could go back above Chelsea with a win over Arsenal at the King Power Stadium in the day's late kick-off. Meanwhile, City can regain second place by beating Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

Usually enterprising and free-scoring, the Blues found themselves thwarted during the first half by a well-organised Palace defensive barrier. The Eagles operated out of a rigid 4-5-1 formation with the middle of the park densely populated, denying Chelsea spaces to thread passes between the lines.

Palace's rearguard left Chelsea hoping for individual inspiration, and Pulisic often threatened to provide it. The USA international, tricked, twisted and turned in wide areas but was rarely able to fashion quite enough room to fire off a shot or tease in the right cross.

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

.@cpulisic_10 gets it ☕️ https://t.co/1LqfZFo0Rc

Joe Prince-Wright @JPW_NBCSports

🇺🇸🙌🔵 Yes, I know Christian Pulisic scored a hat trick for Chelsea at Burnley and has played really well v. Watford and in cameos against Newcastle and Ajax, but this is his best #CFC display so far. Crystal Palace petrified of the #USMNT winger. They can't get the ball off him! https://t.co/RUYfGQmVAn

Pulisic was catching the eye, but few of his attacking team-mates were following his lead. Mason Mount wasn't seeing enough of the ball, while the mercurial Willian was frustrating from the flanks.

The latter had the best chance of the opening period in first-half stoppage time but saw his close-range effort denied by a brilliant block from former Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill.

He was proving to be a stubborn last line of defence against any type of approach his old club mounted toward goal:

Goal @goal

Gary Cahill rises above everybody to head a Chelsea free-kick away 😬 #CHECRY https://t.co/T1YF4pNsAY

Cahill was helping frustrate a Chelsea team seemingly too content to work through a congested middle. However, the Blues' fidelity to their slick passing game paid off six minutes after the restart when Willian's deft touch teed up Abraham, and the prolific 22-year-old finished coolly.

Abraham's rising assurance in front of goal is the best endorsement of the youth movement Frank Lampard has championed since taking charge in the summer.

Squawka Football @Squawka

Tammy Abraham has now equalled Marcus Rashford’s personal best for most goals in a single Premier League season. Rashford in 2018/19: 33 games, 10 goals Abraham in 2019/20: 12 games, 10 goals You vs. the striker they told you not to worry about. https://t.co/UbFQjWqtXa

Palace had finally buckled, but to their credit, the visitors soon rediscovered their stability and were able to make the second half a largely nervy experience for Chelsea. Those nerves weren't settled until Pulisic headed home in the 78th minute.

His clever pass found substitute Michy Batshuayi, who had replaced Abraham moments earlier. Batshuayi's shot took a deflection, with the ball flicking up kindly for Pulisic to maintain a burgeoning scoring run before he was subbed for Callum Hudson-Odoi.

B/R Football @brfootball

Five goals in three league games. @cpulisic_10 is feeling right at home in the Premier League ✨ https://t.co/E7yZxWLzdh

The cast was changing up front, but Lampard's team continued to shift the ball neatly and with purpose. Movement was quick and imaginative, with players freely rotating positions in the final third.

Batshuayi went close in injury time after another typically well-crafted move involving Willian and N'Golo Kante. Chelsea ultimately didn't need a third, though.

Instead, another win and second place in the table represented just rewards for a manager brave enough to trust young players to carry out an expansive style of play.


What's Next?

Chelsea will be away to Manchester City when the league campaign resumes on November 23 following the upcoming international break. Palace will be in action on the same day when they host top-of-the-table Liverpool at Selhurst Park.