Chelsea picked up their first win under Guus Hiddink with an impressive display at Selhurst Park on Sunday. The Blues frontline finally clicked, while the defence recorded a second consecutive clean sheet. Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa scored as the champions picked up their first away win since August in the league. They’ve now moved up to 14th place, eight points behind seventh placed Palace.
Diego Costa returned after serving a one match suspension at the end of last year, while injury saw Nemanja Matic only fit enough for the bench. John Obi Mikel came in to replace him, playing alongside Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park. The midfield saw Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard in attacking positions, with Pedro dropping down to the bench.
The Spaniard wasn’t left out for long, as Eden Hazard picked up an injury with just 15 minutes of the game played. Just like the Leicester game it didn’t seem too serious, but the Belgian said he couldn’t continue. Pedro replaced him, and the team immediately looked better, with the former Barca man putting in a great shift on the left hand side of midfield.
Pedro made his debut in the only other away league win that Chelsea have recorded this term, against West Brom back in the summer. He didn’t play quite as key of a role here, but the gear shift after he came on inspired the first goal. The most pleasing part had to be the link-up between Fabregas and Costa in the build-up, something that’s been lacking this term. The forward held the ball up, and played through Oscar, who buried it to score his first away league goal in almost a year.
The half-time break saw the visitors leading 1-0, and they were able to double that 15 minutes into the second period. Oscar was involved again, he was brought down just after passing to Willian, who scored with a fabulous strike after the referee played advantage. It was another gem in Willian’s collection, the standout Chelsea player from this otherwise poor campaign.
It wasn’t long before the Blues put even more shine on the scoreline, with Diego Costa scoring for the third time in his last two outings. His goal was no more than a tap in, but no less than he deserved, as he was excellent up front. He was like a bull, charging around and disturbing that Palace back line.
For once, there were several Chelsea candidates for man of the match. Costa was up there, both Willian and Oscar were great, but the real standout man seemed to be unsung hero Mikel. He was a calming influence on a defence who have seen much better days, and he’s a big part of the reason that no Palace attacks are mentioned here. There simply wasn’t anything of note from Palace’s pacey forwards.
LCN Man of the Match: John Obi Mikel