A blues rhapsody in rain

Crystal Palace players can only look on in despair, while Chelsea midfielder Oscar (right) wheels away in jubilation after scoring the opening goal at Selhurst Park in the Blues' 3-0 win.
Crystal Palace players can only look on in despair, while Chelsea midfielder Oscar (right) wheels away in jubilation after scoring the opening goal at Selhurst Park in the Blues' 3-0 win. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea play like last season's champs with solid individual displays, excellent teamwork

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Crystal Palace 0

Chelsea 3

This was like old times for Chelsea. For the first time since the 2009 FA Cup final, Guus Hiddink could taste victory as the Blues' interim manager.

BACK TO CHAMPIONSHIP FORM

This was the Chelsea of last year, the football was first class and we kept the ball in tough conditions. A near year, a new start, we just have to keep winning games now.

JOHN TERRY, Chelsea captain

His charges did not need to wind the clock back quite as far. This was the Chelsea of last season: purposeful, powerful and professional, which in its own way illustrated the scale of their underachievement in the first half of this campaign.

Oscar's well-worked goal, Willian's howitzer and Diego Costa's tap-in secured Chelsea's biggest victory of the Premier League season. It was also Crystal Palace's heaviest defeat this campaign.

Chelsea had not won a top-flight away game since August, but this was the sort of ominous display to suggest they could surge up the table.

The impact of Hiddink, who had drawn his first two games in charge, is becoming apparent. John Obi Mikel, preferred to Nemanja Matic, was influential as the holding midfielder.

Kurt Zouma was terrific at the heart of the defence. Ahead of him, Jose Mourinho's underachievers are delivering since his departure.

Three contributed to the opening goal.

The recalled Cesc Fabregas provided the defence-splitting pass that Costa accelerated on to.

He had the presence of mind to cut the ball back for Oscar, who scored for the second time in four games since the Portuguese's sacking.

Willian was the exception, the man who excelled for Mourinho. He continued to flourish, but in different fashion.

Six of his first seven goals this season were free kicks. The eighth was an unstoppable, swerving shot from long range.

Fabregas and Oscar were again involved in the build-up, while having scored a goal, Willian then made one.

His low shot was parried by Palace 'keeper Wayne Hennessey and Costa had the simplest of finishes. He now has three goals in two games under Hiddink.

The Dutchman revitalised Didier Drogba during his first spell in charge. The early signs are that he is having the same effect on the Spaniard.

The only exception to his alchemy was the reigning Footballer of the Year.

Eden Hazard's last Chelsea goal came against Palace, but in May. His drought was extended to 30 games, courtesy of a cameo.

The Belgian limped off after a quarter of an hour and his team prospered without him.

While Chelsea's campaign is improving, his sorry season gets no better.

Yet this was an opportune time to face Palace, missing their most creative player, in Yohan Cabaye, and their most dynamic, Yannick Bolasie. They failed to score for the third successive game.

Indeed, their progress until then had been all the more remarkable as they have not had a league goal in open play from a striker all season.

Fraizer Campbell could have rendered that statistic outdated, but skewed a shot wide at the far post. Chelsea were altogether more ruthless.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'A BLUES RHAPSODY IN RAIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe