LONDON (Reuters) - Second-half strikes by Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic earned Chelsea a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace and a sixth consecutive Premier League victory that pushed the Blues up to second in the standings on Saturday.
Abraham, who spearheads Chelsea’s new-look young side, broke Palace’s defensive line in the 52nd minute after a first-touch pass from Brazilian midfielder Willian and he sidefooted past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Chelsea coach Frank Lampard praised Abraham for weathering a tough first half, when he struggled to make an impact, to claim his 10th goal of the season, making him joint top scorer with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
“It might not be his best game on the show-reel,” Lampard said. “When you think about tough games and you come and get the goal which puts you in front to help you win the game, that’s just as important.”
Pulisic capped a fine display on the wing by making it 2-0 in the 79th minute when a shot by substitute Michy Batshuayi was blocked by former Chelsea defender Gary Cahill and looped invitingly for the American to head home.
It was Pulisic’s fifth goal in three league games, repaying Lampard’s confidence in him after a tough start to his time in England.
“He’s scoring in and around the six-yard box which I think is a huge thing for any wide player,” Lampard said.
Lampard fielded the club’s youngest-ever Premier League line-up at kickoff, giving 19-year-old defender Reece James his first league start as he replaced Cesar Azpilicueta.
“I am proud of the squad that we have got, but I also realise it’s still a snapshot in what is the big picture which is the long-term future here,” he said.
“We have got so much improvement to do because the gap was too big last year between us and the top two, and we want to try and close that.”
The return of N’Golo Kante after a groin injury, in for Jorginho who was suspended, strengthened Chelsea’s midfield as Lampard’s men recorded only their third clean sheet of the season.
Chelsea leapfrogged Manchester City and Leicester City, who have yet to play this weekend. They are five points behind leaders Liverpool, who have also a played a game less.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson said he had hoped Chelsea would be jaded after a dramatic 4-4 Champions League draw with Ajax on Tuesday.
“The second goal, I thought, was a little bit unfortunate for us. We were starting to grow into the game,” Hodgson said. “Obviously after that it was going to be very difficult for us to get back in it.”
Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Pritha Sarkar