EPL: Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea - Player Ratings
Spluttering defending champions Chelsea produced their best performance of the season as they ran out 3-0 victors over Crystal Palace at the Selhurst Park. Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa shared goal apiece as interim manager Guus Hiddink tastes his first victory with the side in 2 games under his stewardship.
Alan Pardew's high-flying hosts were touted to take this one away from the beleaguered holders, but their top 5 ambitions were dealt a hammer blow when the visitors pulled a blinder.
The new year has certainly begun with a wham for Chelsea, who will be hoping to continue in the same vein for the rest of the season. Let us glance through how each player on the field fared on this rainy night in South Norwood.
Wayne Hennessey – 6.5
The Eagles custodian was left helpless during the first two goals, but could've and should've done better with the third. Hennessey parried Willian's effort straight into the path of Diego Costa, who made no mistake from close range. That just summed up his night.
Damien Delany – 7
The Crystal Palace defender cut a lethargic figure in the build-up to the opener as Costa got the better of him before laying a cross for Oscar to open the scorings. Although he couldn't have done much about the next two goals, Delany still had a tough day in the office, nonetheless.
Scott Dann - 8.5
The shining light in an otherwise subdued Palace defence, Dann appeared to be like the only man aware about whats happening around. The 28-year old showed some stones in the backline, made certain crucial interceptions and not to mention the crisp tackles. His challenge on Costa in the final few minutes of the game to deny the Spaniard a fourth was simply jaw-dropping.
Joel Ward – 5
If Dann was the best of the defensive phalanx for the hosts, then Ward was at the opposite spectrum. The fullback had a torrid time down the right wing, with Pedro making him wipe the floor. Chelsea's victory today was largely down to their exploits from the right flanks, and Joel Ward could do absolutely nothing about it.
Pape Souare – 5
The Senegalese international was very disappointing in his display on both fronts. Neither was he resolute at the back nor offered anything worthwhile while going forward. The 25-year was also at fault for giving balls cheaply and the likes of Willian and Ivanovic ran the rings around him.
Jason Puncheon – 6.5
Puncheon was bright in his showings in the first half, but wasn't able to sustain the impact in the second half as he faded into mediocrity. He may have been actively involved in the proceedings, but with nary an influence.
Chung Yong-Lee - 7
The ‘Blue Dragon' was promising in his surges forward and also laid a few crosses ahead that triggered a Crystal Palace attack. But like many of his teammates, the South-Korean too ran out of steam with each passing minute and couldn't contribute much after the break.
James McArthur - 6.5
The central-midfielder made a few delicious passes in the opening half but was found wanting in his duel with Willian. The Brazilian had little difficulty in outpacing him and McArthur was in no man's land in the build-up to the third goal.
Wilfred Zaha - 7
The viewers saw both, the Jekyll and Hyde of Wilfred Zaha. The winger was exciting at one moment but disappointed at other. Whilst the Ivorian got into some good positions and wrestled valiantly with his opposite number Cesar Azpilicueta, he often let his team down with some terrible crosses into the box.
Mile Jedinak – 6
It was a comme ci comme ca outing for the Aussie. He wasn’t too bad, but did not have much of an impact either. Jedinak weighed in with some vital tackles that foiled Chelsea's attack, but ran out of ideas with the ball at his feet. His lack of attacking verve ultimately affected the home side in the final third as they poor.
Fraizer Campbell - 6.5
Chelsea's high-pressing meant that Crystal Palace spent a large spell of the game in their own half, leaving Campbell isolated at the other end. The former Manchester United and Tottenham man, therefore, tried to give his inpust at the back, providing an extra cover by dropping deep. His inability to inspire his side upfront was the only major blot.
Jonny Williams - 5
The Welshman featured for the first time in 16 months when he came on for Yong-Lee for the final 12 minutes, but was a mere pedestrian.
Joe Ledley – 7
Ledley came on for Jedinak with 23 minutes still on the clock as looked like an upgrade to the underwhelming Australian. The 28-year old offered some protection at the base of the midfield, but had his fare share of struggles when going against Oscar.
Marouane Chamakh – 6
The Moroccan international replaced Campbell slightly after the hour mark but to no avail. His anonymous showing undermined the substitution that Pardew made and had hardly a say in the proceedings.
Thibaut Courtois – 8
The towering Belgian appeared nervy at times as Palace pressed in search of a goal. Otherwise, the former Atletico Madrid custodian held his fort in good stead and was a commanding figure inside the box. And also, a clean-sheet to ice the cake.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 8
Chelsea fullback Cesar Azpilicueta was admirable with his display at the back a he dealt with Zaha and Ward effectively. The Spaniard also got involved in the attack when the situation demanded, getting into good positions and trying his hand with some crosses into the box.
Branislav Ivanovic – 7.5
The Blues defender put in a relatively good shift at the back and enjoyed pestering Lee. The Serbian was happy to move forward as Palace were ropey at the back and tried to cause problems in the air. A highly improved performance by the Chelsea stalwart who has been forlorn for much of the season.
Kurt Zouma – 8.5
The young gun of France continued to impress in the Chelsea defence and was pivotal to the clean-sheet his side registered today. Zouma set an example at the heart of the backline and shut out Palace's strike force. He was also central to some crunching tackles that stalled the hosts in their tracks.
John Terry – 7
The Chelsea skipper took his time to come into the game, but after the first goal, was solid. Terry went toe-to-toe with Campbell, frustrating him no end and also tried to instigate attacks on an occasion with his lunging ball forward. His defending nous was the highlight of his evening.
Willian - 9.5
Willian had been the only consistent performance during Chelsea’s turbulent start to the season, and continued his fine run with another zinger of a show in the attack. Not only the Brazilian got on the socrehseet with a neat 20-yard volley, but also laid the third when his shot was meekly fumbled by Hennessey at the feet of Costa.
John Obi Mikel - 9
The Man of the Match, John Obi Mikel was terrific at the base of the midfield, shielding the likes of Terry and Zouma, thereby allowing Fabregas to roam more freely. His performance today was worth its weight in gold as the Nigerian had one of his best nights in a Chelsea shirt. No wonder the fans went into his raptures at the end of the game.
Eden Hazard – 6
The only disappointment in an otherwise impressive Chelsea side, Eden Hazard was sloppy in the first quarter of an hour as struggled to find his footing. He would be put out of his misery with a groin injury that is set to keep him out for a considerable amount of time.
Oscar – 9
The Brazilian was stupendous while operating from behind Costa. He was quickly got into spaces between the Palace defense and the attack and was threatening when in possession. Oscar triggered the assault on the night and had a hand in the second with a blistering run forward.
Cesc Fabregas 7.5
For all the grief he endured all this while, in the season, Cesc Fabregas may have finally announced his return to form again. The Spaniard was always eager to go forward and was indirectly involved in the first two goals.
Diego Costa – 8
The embattled striker is returning to form post the departure of Jose Mourinho and marked his return to the team after a one-game suspension with a bang. He first beat his marker to set-up Oscar, before getting on the scoresheet himself late in the game by nonchalantly tapping in after a blunder from Hennessey.
Nemanja Matic – 6
The talismanic Serb started on the bench and was called into action for the final 5 minutes of the game for Oscar. Even in the very limited gametime given, Matic couldn't conjure anything substantial and justified Hiddink's decision to leave him out of the starting line-up.
Pedro – 7
The summer recruit came on for the injured Hazard to add some spark, only to lose the edge deep into the game. Pedro may have dealt with Ward comfortably, but some of his crosses were wayward.