Sunday Mirror

HIGHER POWER

Now to finish Porto job...

- By TOM HOPKINSON at Selhurst Park

CHELSEA reaffirmed their Champions League credential­s with a thumping win at Crystal Palace.

The Blues started like an express train with Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic putting them two up within 11 minutes.

And when Kurt Zouma headed them further ahead on the half-hour, it wasn’t a case of whether they would win after last week’s aberration against West Brom, but whether or not they could put more than the seven past Palace that Liverpool managed.

They couldn’t, as it happened, Pulisic’s second of the game their fourth and final on the afternoon.

But the fact Chelsea moved back above Jurgen Klopp’s resurgent Reds – resurgent in the Premier League at least – after they’d temporaril­y moved above them following their win against Aston Villa was plenty of consolatio­n.

Liverpool had thrown down a real marker with their win earlier in the day, but Thomas Tuchel’s side picked it up and chucked it forward again to further fuel what is fast becoming a compelling race for a top-four finish.

For Palace, it wasn’t a good afternoon – a miserable first half, a better second, but still their 13th defeat of their season.

Although it’s just about a few quid more or less from the place money for them now, with relegation long since over as a concern.

For Chelsea, this was just what they needed in the Premier League after getting back to winning ways against Porto in the

Champions League on Wednesday. They could even have been five or six up at half-time but for a couple of decent stops from Eagles keeper Vicente Guaita and some last-ditch defending from Patrick van Aanholt.

Pulisic had a great opening when Mason Mount put a chance on a plate for him with a delicious cross from the right but Guaita denied him from close range.

Seconds later Chelsea took the lead when Eberechi Eze was dispossess­ed.

Havertz popped the ball off and then took it back from Callum Hudson-Odoi before composing himself and tucking a lovely, low finish into the Palace net.

Roy Hodgson’s men were further behind a couple of minutes later with Havertz turning provider. It was the

first time the £72million German had registered a goal and an assist in the same game since his arrival.

Ben Chilwell found him as a super move carved Palace open and Havertz slipped in Pulisic, who smashed his finish into the roof of the net.

Havertz went close to a third after some wonderful skill – think Gazza against

Scotland at Euro ’96 – opened up a shooting chance, but Guaita got down well to deny him.

It wasn’t long before

Chelsea were three-up though, with Zouma climbing high to head in Mount’s free-kick.

Mount’s thumping effort shortly after again brought the best out of Guaita and when Antonio Rudiger sent a header goalwards, Van Aanholt managed to clear off his line.

Chelsea were quickly on the front foot after the break and Chilwell was guilty of wasting an effort when Mount and Hudson-Odoi were better placed.

The England left-back did better with a fizzing shot but that was still just off target.

Hodgson (left) sent on Jeffrey Schlupp and James McCarthy on the hour, and Schlupp made a quick impact.

His cross picked out Christian Benteke and he placed a header back across Edouard Mendy.

Palace were buoyed, briefly, but soon Wilfried Zaha was showing his exasperati­on again. It really isn’t a good side of his game.

Havertz forced another save from Guaita but this one was regulation before Pulisic bundled home Reece James’s cross to confirm the win.

Next up: Porto on Tuesday night.

 ??  ?? OPEN AND SHUT
Kai Havertz set Chelsea on their way early on
PUL THE OTHER Christian Pulisic scores his first for 2-0
OPEN AND SHUT Kai Havertz set Chelsea on their way early on PUL THE OTHER Christian Pulisic scores his first for 2-0
 ??  ?? HUG OF WAR Pulisic (right) celebrates with Mount after scoring fourth
HUG OF WAR Pulisic (right) celebrates with Mount after scoring fourth
 ??  ?? September 2019) have they lost more games consecutiv­ely versus a specific opponent in their Football League history. ■■Chelsea are yet to lose on the road under Thomas Tuchel in the Premier League (P6 W4 D2) – the only othe r Blues manager to avoid defeat in his first six PL aways was Felipe Scolari.
ZOUMA MEETING Chelsea star Kurt Zouma made it 3-0
September 2019) have they lost more games consecutiv­ely versus a specific opponent in their Football League history. ■■Chelsea are yet to lose on the road under Thomas Tuchel in the Premier League (P6 W4 D2) – the only othe r Blues manager to avoid defeat in his first six PL aways was Felipe Scolari. ZOUMA MEETING Chelsea star Kurt Zouma made it 3-0

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