A second-half goal from Kai Havertz earned nervy Chelsea their first Premier League win of 2023 on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over lively Crystal Palace, easing the pressure on manager Graham Potter after a poor run of form.
The German striker nodded in a cross from Hakim Ziyech in the 65th minute following a short corner. It was only the second league win in 10 matches for the home side who remain in an unaccustomed 10th place half-way through the season.
“The last few weeks were tough,” Havertz told the BBC. “A lot of things changed this year. We have so many injuries, 10-12 injured players. Today we had five young players in the starting 11, they are doing a really good job at the moment.”
Chelsea are missing influential players such as England forward Raheem Sterling and wingers Reece James and Ben Chilwell as well as France midfielder N’Golo Kante through injury.
Stopgap Portuguese loan winger Joao Felix was also absent after being banned for three matches following a red card in his first game for the club against Fulham last Thursday.
On Sunday, Chelsea were on top for much of the entertaining if scrappy derby, but Palace kept goalkeeper Kepa busy with efforts from Tyrick Mitchell, Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha and he was forced into a leaping save from Cheick Doucoure towards the end of the second half.
Chelsea had chances after surging runs from 18-year-old wingback Lewis Hall and recent 19-year-old addition Carney Chukwuemka, but it was 38-year-old Brazil defender Thiago Silva who forced Palace keeper Vicente Guaita into his first fine save midway through the first half.
The home side had to hang on for seven added minutes as Crystal Palace laid siege to their goal and exposed defensive frailty with former Monaco defender Beloit Baddish playing his first game for the club in a makeshift back line.
“Today we are happy for the three points,” said Potter, who took over from Thomas Tuchel in September.
“Today was about getting the victory – park it as three valuable points against a team that was pushing as well.”
Palace are in 12th place, six points behind Chelsea.
Midway through the first half Chelsea announced Ukrainian winger Mykhailo Mudryk had become their fifth signing of the January transfer window, and the 22-year-old received loud applause at halftime, when he waved from the pitch, a Ukraine flag draped round his shoulders.
“He is a young player with exciting quality in the final third. He is very fast and direct and I think the crowd will like him,” Potter said.
Before kickoff, former Chelsea players who had been coached by or appeared alongside Gianluca Vialli joined the teams to pay tribute to the former Italy international and Chelsea player-manager who died 10 days ago.
Huge banners celebrating the former Sampdoria and Juventus striker were unfurled in the stands and fans chanted his name throughout the match.
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