Kai Havertz’s header eases pressure on Chelsea manager Graham Potter
The pressure on Chelsea manager Graham Potter eased as his side clinched just a second Premier League win since October with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
Kai Havertz headed the winner just after the hour as the hosts celebrated the £62m signing of Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who was paraded on the pitch at half-time with a crucial victory to close the gap on the front four eight points to decrease .
It was a poignant day in west London as Chelsea marked the pre-game death of former player Gianluca Vialli and a host of the Italian’s former team-mates returned to pay their respects.
It helped create a sense of togetherness between players and fans at Stamford Bridge as the team put the past seven days – which culminated in a red card for new signing Joao Felix in last Thursday’s defeat at Fulham – behind them.
Palace had their first real chance of the game after 20 minutes when Michael Olise dropped the ball over his shoulder and poked a try towards Kepa Arrizabalaga’s top corner from 25 yards out, which the Chelsea keeper brilliantly did to fingertip behind to permit .
However, the hosts had the best chance of the first half in the 33rd minute, when Havertz was unmarked and watched out for a cross from Hakim Ziyech, the striker only being able to land his header from six meters onto the roof of Vicente Guaita’s goal.
Just before the break Conor Gallagher broke loose on Palace’s right and flicked a low ball over the goal which Lewis Hall failed to bring home with a first shot at the back post before Ziyech saw a fierce shot from the edge of the area that was knocked over by Guaita as Chelsea finished the half strong.
The hosts’ confidence grew in the second half and Havertz came close again, catching Gallagher’s through ball down the left, but his low shot caught the gloves of the Palace keeper, who held on well.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent on point by Potter after suffering a back injury – the first in the manager’s long list of absences to return – and within a minute Chelsea were ahead.
Ziyech collected the ball near the left touchline and as his cross dodged Palace’s defence, Havertz climbed the highest to place his header past Guaita from six yards.
Havertz should have taken the game past Palace when he fired from behind the defense to meet Mason Mount’s driven cross but this time his direction was lacking as a wonderful chance to seal victory begged.
And Chelsea almost had to pay minutes later when Cheick Doucoure unleashed a fierce shot from 30 yards that required a fine stop from Arrizabalaga to keep his side ahead.
But the hosts stuck with it to give Potter some breathing space and breathe life back into their season with Mudryk now in the books.