Chelsea left it late as they earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Chelsea came into the game on the back of being crowned World Club Champions, Kai Havertz having netted a stoppage-time penalty to beat Palmeiras in the final in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
The Blues have, however, looked unconvincing in recent weeks, with the early promise of a title challenge having all but evaporated, with the club looking somewhat disjointed upfront of late.
It was Crystal Palace that had the first big chance of the game at Selhurst Park, Michael Olise sending an effort narrowly wide after being played through by Wilfried Zaha, while Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante both wasted presentable opportunities at the other end in the first half.
The Eagles again started the brighter of the two sides after the break, with Olise looking a bright spark for the South Londoners, while Hakim Ziyech would see a goal ruled out for a narrow offside with 13 minutes to play as it looked like ending as a goalless draw.
However, the Blues would snatch a late winner as Marcos Alonso’s cross from the left wasn’t cleared by Tyrick Mitchell, the ball reaching Ziyech who was at the back post to snatch all three points.
7 – Romelu Lukaku had just seven touches against Crystal Palace, the fewest in a single Premier League game for a player with 90+ minutes played since this data is available in full for the competition (2003-04). One of those touches was from kick-off in the first half. Quiet.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 19, 2022
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Thomas Tuchel put his side’s underwhelming performance down to the travails of their trip to the middle east, saying his side got the bit of luck that they needed.
“It was not the time to over expect something from us,” he said. “We came from where we came. Played 120 minutes in the FA Cup, 120 minutes in the Club World Cup in 30C temperature difference, we had jet lag against a good opponent, a tough team to play. We managed to win, keep a clean sheet, well deserved and could have scored in the first half.
“If you score late it is always lucky, nobody ever denies that but you need a bit of luck to win games. If you win them, there is not a need to think too long about it.
“They are a strong side at home, have confidence and are well rested. That is how it is. It is the best thing to come back and restart winning. We have not played a Premier League game in four weeks, so it is a bit strange. Nobody really has a feeling for the competition and it is not easy. That is why there is no need to feel bad or say sorry. We got the win, kept on trying and believing.
“Hakim Ziyech could score another one for a us, it was a good battle and was tough. We decided to play him on the far wing so it was a clear one on one with his opponent.”
Next up for Chelsea is a return to Champions League action against Lille on Tuesday, and the German said it’s good to have a quick turnaround.
“It’s a good thing because with a win you can move forward, think up front and you don’t have to worry too much.”