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Report: Tough opening test for Palace against formidable Chelsea side

Alonso 27'
Pulisic 40'
Chalobah 58'
Crystal Palace

Patrick Vieira handed debuts to three Crystal Palace players - including 18-year-old Jesurun Rak-Sakyi - in his first competitive test in charge, a challenging game against European champions Chelsea.


  • Vieira names his first competitive Palace lineup, keeping the starting XI which kicked-off against Watford

  • Chelsea show their calibre from kick-off, but Palace handle them well in the early exchanges

  • Marcos Alonso finds the net with a 20-yard free-kick

  • Christian Pulisic adds a second on the rebound shortly before half-time

  • Half-time: Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace

  • Vicente Guaita makes a smart stop to deny an Alonso volley moments into the second-half

  • Wilfried Zaha breaks well and is stopped close to goal by Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen

  • Joachim Andersen makes his competitive Palace debut as a 57th-minute substitute, with Palace going three at the back

  • Trevoh Chalobah makes it three with a long-range effort

  • Jesurun Rak-Sakyi becomes the third debutant Eagle after Andersen and Marc Guéhi when he steps out after 75 minutes

  • Full-time: Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace

With the pre-match jeers and chanting of supporters again filling the air as Palace kicked-off their season, everything felt, after 18 months spent aiming for it, normal once more. But a huge change in summer – not least of all in the dugout – meant this clash with Chelsea was anything but.

It was the sternest of acid tests for a new era, pitting a recently-shaped side of fresh ideas and approaches against the champions of Europe.

As far as difficult tests with which to begin the campaign go, Palace couldn’t have faced a much tougher one – and Chelsea began the afternoon pressing high with intent. But the south Londoners appeared calm and composed as a counterbalance, and moved the ball swiftly when it fell to them.

When the hosts did break through – Timo Werner spinning in the box only for Marc Guéhi to punt clear from nowhere, or Christian Pulisic heading from eight yards into Vicente Guaita’s hands – Palace were on hand to react.

The first 10 minutes brought few chances, however, largely due to a determined and forthcoming Palace midfield, James McArthur and Jairo Riedewald marshalling play with the former as captain. Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp’s defensive capabilities were also on display in the wide areas.

Though this resilience was only a buffer against Chelsea’s pressure and couldn’t keep the high-pressing Blues away indefinitely. Guaita was again called into action to punch Mason Mount’s free-kick clear and Joel Ward did well to head a testing ball across the box behind to safety.

Guaita was less fortunate when Marcos Alonso stepped up next, striking home a dead ball crisply from 20 yards after 26 minutes.

Chelsea grew in confidence following the goal and put Palace under more intense pressure through the next exchanges. The Eagles maintained their high line and resolute approach and enjoyed spells of possession which Guéhi used to drive deep into the Chelsea half.

Ultimately the hosts’ attacking ability shone through again, however, and Pulisic was fastest to react to a loose ball after Guaita palmed a low cross; the American striking high and home from five yards to double his side’s lead.

The Blues returned for the second-half with the same intent they showed in the first, and Guaita was forced into a smart stop when Alonso volleyed from wide in the box.

Having regrouped at the break, this time Palace responded with a promising attack: Riedewald bringing the ball down in midfield and feeding Wilfried Zaha, who forced two Chelsea defenders into action near the byline.

Guéhi headed the resulting corner back across the box and Schlupp volleyed too high, but this was a double warning call from Palace, and ensured their hosts remained alert.

Vieira made a double switch shortly after when he handed Joachim Andersen his Palace debut and Christian Benteke his first minutes of the season shortly before the hour-mark.

The effect of this switch was cruelly undermined shortly afterwards, however, when Trevoh Chalobah drove the ball home from over 20 yards; netting a goal on his Premier League debut.

With three at the back – Ward and Tyrick Mitchell playing high up the wings, with Kouyaté remaining in defence – the Eagles looked brighter going forward, and began to push their hosts towards the Shed End.

Jordan Ayew rose highest from a corner to force Édouard Mendy into action and Zaha almost thread Benteke into a one-on-one.

With 15 minutes to go, Vieira showed his faith in Palace’s Academy by handing Jesurun Rak-Sakyi his debut in place of Riedewald. The teenage attacker began his career at Chelsea, so stepping out in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge was a poignant twist of fate.

Shortly after coming on, Rak-Sakyi lofted in a testing ball which took four Chelsea men to clear. It was another glimmer of promise on a challenging afternoon.

But ultimately, European champions Chelsea proved too tough a test for Vieira’s newly-assembled Eagles, who showed encouraging signs throughout the afternoon but were undone by a fierce host.

Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta (James 67), Rüdiger, Alonso (Emerson 87), Christensen, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chalobah, Mount, Pulisic (Havertz 81), Werner.

Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Silva, Chilwell, Zouma, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham.

Palace: Guaita, Mitchell, Kouyaté, Guéhi, Ward, Riedewald, McArthur, Schlupp (Andersen 57), Ayew, Zaha, Mateta (Benteke 57).

Subs not used: Butland, Clyne, Kelly, Hannam, Banks, Rak-Sakyi, Street.