LONDON (AP) — Chelsea eased the pressure on manager Graham Potter by securing just a second Premier League victory since October with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Kai Havertz headed in the winning goal in the 64th minute in front of Chelsea’s latest signing, Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who was paraded on the field at halftime.
It was a poignant day in west London as Chelsea paid tribute to former striker Gianluca Vialli, who died this month at the age of 58, before the match with a host of the Italian’s former teammates returning to pay their respects.
It contributed to a feeling of togetherness between players and supporters at Stamford Bridge as the team put a dreadful last seven days — which culminated in a red card for new signing Joao Felix in a defeat at Fulham on Thursday — behind them.
It was only a second win in the last 10 games in the league to take some of the heat off Potter, with 10th-place Chelsea moving level on points with Liverpool in ninth.
Palace had the first real chance of the game after 20 minutes, when Michael Olise allowed the ball to drop over his shoulder and drilled an effort toward Kepa Arrizabalaga’s top corner from 25 yards (meters). The Chelsea goalkeeper did brilliantly to finger-tip behind at full stretch.
But it was the hosts who had the best chance of the first half in the 33rd minute when Havertz rose unmarked to meet Hakim Ziyech’s whipped cross, with the forward only able to land his header onto the roof of the net.
Just before halftime, Conor Gallagher broke away down Palace’s right and fired a low ball across goal that Lewis Hall was unable to convert with a first-time effort at the back post. Ziyech then saw a fierce drive from the edge of the area tipped over by Vicente Guaita as Chelsea finished the half strongly.
The hosts’ confidence grew in the second half and Havertz again went close when he latched onto Gallagher’s through-ball down the left, but his low drive was saved.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent on by Potter on the hour having recovered from a back injury — the first of the manager’s long list of absentees to make a return — and Chelsea soon had the lead.
Ziyech collected the ball near the left touchline and, as his whipped cross evaded Palace’s defense, there was Havertz climbing highest to plant his header past Guaita.
Havertz should have put the game beyond Palace when he darted behind the defense to meet Mason Mount’s driven cross, but this time his direction was lacking as a wonderful chance to seal the win went begging.
And Chelsea was almost made to pay minutes later when Cheick Doucoure unleashed a fierce drive from 30 meters that required a fine stop from Arrizabalaga to preserve his team’s lead.
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