Chelsea beat Crystal Palace to record a sixth consecutive Premier League win for the first time since their title-winning season of 2016-17.
The Blues’ victory means they are now five points behind leaders Liverpool and level on points with second-placed Leicester.
Frank Lampard’s side moved above Manchester City, who play leaders Liverpool on Sunday, but sit behind Brendan Rodgers’ side on goal difference.
Tammy Abraham’s 10th league goal of the season and Christian Pulisic’s header ensured the win against a resolute Palace side who barely got out of their own half during the first period.
And after dominating a goalless opening half, Chelsea finally made the breakthrough when Mateo Kovacic and Willian combined to release Abraham – with the forward stroking a right-foot effort into the bottom right corner from 10 yards.
James Tomkins missed a glorious opportunity to equalise for the Eagles, heading Luka Milivojevic’s right-wing delivery wide from six yards.
But Chelsea more than merited their win, with Pulisic wrapping up the points with a close-range header after Michy Batshuayi’s deflected shot fell into his path.
Palace’s defeat, their third in four games, leaves them 10th in the table.
Youthful Chelsea overwhelm Palace
While Chelsea may no longer have Eden Hazard, there still appears to have been a notable evolution in their attacking play since Lampard was installed as manager.
His team may enjoy less possession and play fewer passes (per game) than under former boss Maurizio Sarri but they look considerably more dynamic.
Fikayo Tomori, 21, Mason Mount, 20 and Abraham, 22, have all come into the team, while Christian Pulisic, 21, and 19-year-old Reece James, making his first Premier League start, ensured Lampard’s starting side was the club’s youngest ever in Premier League terms.
Mount and Kovacic both had shots blocked inside the first minute and Willian’s 25-yard free-kick narrowly flew wide of the top corner shortly after.
The most impressive aspect of Chelsea’s performance was the patience and perseverance they showed after going into the interval at 0-0.
Lampard, who was named Premier League manager of the month for October has provided his side with a clear identity, and they never wavered from their free-flowing style.
And that was supplemented by the finishing power of Abraham and Pulisic who are both in rich form in front of goal.
Abraham opened his body out wonderfully before guiding the ball past Palace keeper Vicente Guaita, as he moved level with Jamie Vardy at the top of the division’s goalscoring charts.
American Pulisic, who was inventive throughout, capped an impressive performance with his fifth goal in his last three games.
Palace unable to offer attacking threat
Palace boss Roy Hodgson deployed a tried and tested 4-5-1 formation on his 300th outing as a Premier League manager.
And his team initially displayed the same manner of determined defending that helped them to a win at Manchester United in August and a recent point at Arsenal.
Guaita superbly smothered Pulisic’s early close-range effort, while Gary Cahill brilliantly blocked Willian’s strike from six yards out, just before the break.
Former England defender Cahill, 33, who spent seven years at Chelsea before joining Palace in the summer, barely put a foot wrong on his return to Stamford Bridge.
But unlike in their successes at Old Trafford and the Emirates, Palace were unable to offer any attacking threat going forward.
Jordan Ayew, who contributed one of Palace’s two goals in each of those matches did not touch the ball in the Chelsea penalty area.
And Wilfried Zaha was well shackled by James, spending most of his afternoon running toward his own goal as Palace mustered just one effort on target.
‘Tammy has shown there are so many parts to his game’ – what they said
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard: “We certainly deserved to win the game, but it was frustrating in a way because we had chances but not enough clear-cut ones.
“They [the young players] are a big part of the team. The older players help the younger ones but they have to realise very quickly what this level is because it’s tough. The way they work daily and approach games is great. Can we replicate that through a longer period, that’s the test.
“We’ve had teams come here and be difficult to break down, it’s a test of not only how you unlock the door, but can you switch on to make sure you don’t get hit by the sucker punch? I was really delighted with the game management. I got as much joy out of Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori’s performances in defence, and the midfielders shielding in front of them, as I did our attacking play.
“I trust in Reece [James]. Azpilicueta is our captain and is a legend of the club but it was just time to give Reece some minutes today because he’s playing so well and he’s trained so well. It was a really good individual performance. He dealt with [Wilfried] Zaha well and gave him problems going the other way.
“Harry Kane is an incredible player and what he’s done in recent years and his career is amazing, so Tammy [Abraham] needs to look up to that. That’s the next stage for Tammy. He’s shown there are so many parts to his game. Today was difficult because there was not much space in to his feet. It’s the game where you work a lot for a goal but he did that.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: “I thought we weathered the early storm well. We controlled an opponent in very good form.
“Eventually they scored a good goal, but the second goal was a little unfortunate as we were starting to grow into the game and looking a little bit likely ourselves. Then it was very difficult for us to get back into it.
“It’s an unfortunate spell we find ourselves in, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with our performance.”
Azpilicueta’s run halted – the stats
- Chelsea have won six consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2017 under Antonio Conte, in their last title-winning season.
- This was Crystal Palace’s 100th Premier League London derby (W23 D23 L54), with only Fulham posting a lower points-per-game rate in such games (0.84) than the Eagles (0.92).
- Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is the seventh English manager to win six consecutive Premier League matches, and the first since Alan Pardew in April 2012 with Newcastle United.
- With an average age of 24 years and 88 days, Chelsea named their youngest ever starting XI in the Premier League, and the youngest of any team in the competition this season.
- Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson oversaw his 300th Premier League game as manager, becoming the 15th boss to hit that milestone.
- César Azpilicueta’s run of 73 consecutive starts in the Premier League for Chelsea ended, with the Spaniard failing to start for the first time since November 2017 against Swansea.
- Crystal Palace failed to attempt a single shot in the first half of a Premier League match for the first time since March 2014 away to Swansea City.
- Tammy Abraham is the second youngest player to reach double figures for Premier League goals for Chelsea, after Arjen Robben (21y 342d).
- Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is the fourth American to score in three consecutive Premier League games, after Clint Dempsey (three times), Joe-Max Moore and Roy Wegerle.
Chelsea travel to Manchester City in their next Premier League match on Saturday, 23 November (17:30 GMT). Crystal Palace welcome league leaders Liverpool to Selhurst Park for their next Premier League fixture on that day (15:00).