Conor Gallagher scored twice as Chelsea came from behind to win at Selhurst Park and increase the pressure on Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.
The Blues dominated the opening period of the match but it was Palace who took the lead, with Jefferson Lerma picking up the ball on the edge of the area and rifling the ball into the top corner in the 30th minute.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side could not muster a shot until the 45th minute as Palace tried to frustrate their opponents and pick up a much-needed win to widen the five-point gap to the relegation zone.
However, it took just two minutes of the second half for the visitors to level as Malo Gusto’s bouncing cross was met by Gallagher – who was on loan at Palace in 2021-22 – and he smashed the ball past Dean Henderson.
Chelsea continued to push for a winner and Gallagher secured it in stoppage time with a neat first-time finish, before Enzo Fernandez added a composed finish at the near post to help lift his side to 10th in the table.
Gallagher takes centre stage against former club
Chelsea came into this match on the back of an impressive FA Cup win at Aston Villa and made only the one enforced change with centre-back Thiago Silva coming in for the injured Benoit Badiashile.
The visitors struggled to break down Palace in the first half despite dominating possession and completing 420 passes, the most in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game without having a shot on target since the 2003-04 season.
Pochettino’s side have struggled to penetrate teams that have defended in a low block this season and found it hard to find ways through Hodgson’s stubborn side.
The Chelsea manager made changes at half-time and with Christopher Nkunku coming on and Cole Palmer moving out to the right they seemed to be more fluent in attack.
It was Palmer who slid in a cross from wide to set up Gallagher’s second, an excellent, drilled finish into the bottom corner.
The England midfielder has three goals in two games after scoring in the cup at Villa, and will hope that his first league goals of the season kickstart a run of form for him and his team.
Chelsea travel to Manchester City on Saturday before taking on Liverpool in the EFL Cup final and Leeds in the FA Cup, in what will be a crucial two weeks of their season.
Late goals put Hodgson future back under spotlight
Palace came into this match on the back of a damaging defeat to rivals Brighton, with manager Hodgson under increasing pressure amid inconsistent form.
The Eagles defended well in the first period and Gallagher’s dragged shot wide was the only chance they had to deal with in the opening 45 minutes.
Hodgson handed first Premier League starts to January deadline day signing Adam Wharton and Brazilian Matheus Franca as he looked to deal with the absence of key men Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze.
It looked as though those changes had worked after Lerma’s searing 25-yard strike but conceding just 80 seconds into the second half undid all the good work.
Supporters once again held banners displaying their frustration with the club and after the late goals gave the points to Chelsea the questions about Hodgson’s future will only mount.
“I can only hope that the fans are realistic. They know our injury problems and our team selection problems at the moment,” Hodgson said.
“They also know there are some young players who are trying to find their way in the game. I would like to think they will take all those things into consideration.
“I don’t know what people are thinking and what their attitude is going to be, but I do think that today the team gave their very best and did give the fair-minded supporter a chance to believe in this team and believe in this club as we go forward.”
They remain 15th in the table and travel to Everton next Monday, before hosting Burnley.
Player of the match
with an average of 7.89
Squad number20Player nameA Wharton
Squad number8Player nameLerma
Squad number11Player nameMatheus França
Squad number14Player nameMateta
Squad number12Player nameMuñoz
Squad number9Player nameJ Ayew
Squad number16Player nameAndersen
Squad number26Player nameRichards
Squad number19Player nameHughes
Squad number22Player nameÉdouard
Squad number3Player nameMitchell
Squad number29Player nameAhamada
Squad number30Player nameHenderson
Squad number23Player nameGallagher
Squad number27Player nameGusto
Squad number8Player nameFernández
Squad number28Player namePetrovic
Squad number26Player nameColwill
Squad number6Player nameThiago Silva
Squad number21Player nameChilwell
Squad number2Player nameDisasi
Squad number18Player nameNkunku
Squad number42Player nameGilchrist
Squad number25Player nameCaicedo
Squad number15Player nameJackson
Squad number11Player nameMadueke
Squad number7Player nameSterling
Squad number20Player namePalmer
- 12MuñozBooked at 79mins
- 20A Wharton
- 8LermaBooked at 70mins
- 9J Ayew
- 19HughesSubstituted forAhamadaat 79′minutes
- 11França de OliveiraSubstituted forÉdouardat 84′minutes
- 27GustoSubstituted forGilchristat 84′minutes
- 2DisasiBooked at 90mins
- 6Thiago SilvaSubstituted forColwillat 61′minutes
- 11MaduekeSubstituted forNkunkuat 45′minutes
- 15JacksonBooked at 90minsSubstituted forSterlingat 79′minutes
- Michael Oliver
Match ends, Crystal Palace 1, Chelsea 3.
Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 1, Chelsea 3.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Chris Richards.
Attempt blocked. Christopher Nkunku (Chelsea) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Moisés Caicedo.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Naouirou Ahamada.
Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.
Goal! Crystal Palace 1, Chelsea 3. Enzo Fernández (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Cole Palmer following a fast break.
Foul by Conor Gallagher (Chelsea).
Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Axel Disasi (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.
Goal! Crystal Palace 1, Chelsea 2. Conor Gallagher (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Cole Palmer.
Attempt saved. Axel Disasi (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Raheem Sterling with a cross.
Enzo Fernández (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace).
Foul by Axel Disasi (Chelsea).
Jean-Philippe Mateta (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Naouirou Ahamada (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Odsonne Édouard.
Attempt blocked. Odsonne Édouard (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Chelsea).
Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.