Chelsea capped a perfect week which included the club-record capture of Romelu Lukaku by beginning the new Premier League season with a thumping 3-0 win over Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
Three days after lifting the European Super Cup and less than 48 hours since announcing the £97.5million return of striker Lukaku, the dominant hosts cruised to victory courtesy of goals from Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic and top-flight debutant Trevoh Chalobah.
New Palace boss Vieira – stepping into shoes vacated by Roy Hodgson – endured an afternoon to forget and was left with plenty to ponder after his outclassed side never threatened an opening-day upset.
Chelsea were back in competitive action on home soil for the first time since Champions League glory in May, with Thomas Tuchel given a first taste as Blues boss of packed stands inside Stamford Bridge.
The perfect start! 😁— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 14, 2021
Without midweek injury casualties N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech, the German coach opted for five changes to the starting XI which began Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out win over Villarreal, bringing back Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Mason Mount and Pulisic.
Meanwhile, following a summer of upheaval at Selhurst Park, a new era for the Eagles had an extremely familiar feel, with ex-Chelsea player Marc Guehi their only starting debutant.
The full return of fans and the high-profile purchase of former Inter Milan man Lukaku – who was unavailable due to quarantine rules – combined to generate great optimism in west London.
Chants of ‘Champions of Europe’ had begun well before kick-off and the hosts quickly gained control of proceedings.
Against unambitious opposition seeking to soak up pressure up and spring counter attacks, Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and Mount each threatened with half-chances before the deserved breakthrough came with 27 minutes on the clock.
England midfielder Mount was fouled on the edge of the Eagles’ 18-yard box, allowing set-piece specialist Alonso to expertly curl home beyond static Eagles goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Palace were in desperate need of a spark but Vieira’s touchline demeanour – hands on his hips and occasionally scratching his head – hardly looked likely to inspire.
The Frenchman’s half-time team talk became that little bit harder with just under five minutes to go to the break.
A neat one-two between Mount and Azpilicueta on the right unlocked the Palace defence and, after Guaita failed to gather the subsequent loss cross, United States international Pulisic was on hand to scruffily convert.
Spanish stopper Guaita was forced to smartly save from a thunderous Alonso volley just after the restart, before Palace finally threatened when Antonio Rudiger’s late block denied Wilfried Zaha a free shot at goal.
Any hopes of an unlikely comeback were swiftly extinguished as Chalobah raised the roof with a stunning strike from distance in the 58th minute.
The 22-year-old – loaned out to Ipswich, Huddersfield and French club Lorient in recent times – was given time and space deep inside Palace territory and duly advanced to unleash a low, arrow-like drive which found the net via the left post.
Ahead of the game, Tuchel laughed off suggestions his side were title favourites following the capture of Lukaku.
Yet he could have few complaints about how the quest to bridge a 19-point gap to champions Manchester City began, with a goal for Timo Werner – who squandered two decent openings – the only thing missing.
Palace’s sole attempt on target of a dismal display was a tame Jordan Ayew header and Vieira will be eager for significant improvement during next weekend’s home clash with newly-promoted Brentford.
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