LONDON (Reuters) -Chelsea eased to a 3-0 home win over a toothless Crystal Palace on Saturday as the European champions made a strong statement of intent in their opening game of the Premier League season.
Spanish left back Marcos Alonso fizzed a free kick into the top corner to put Chelsea in charge in the 27th minute while U.S. forward Christian Pulisic followed up on the rebound to double their lead five minutes before halftime.
Chelsea’s homegrown defender Trevoh Chalobah then completed a dream Premier League debut in the second half when he smashed a distance shot in off the post to score his first goal for the club he joined as an eight-year-old.
The defender, who has spent the last three seasons on loan in England and France, dropped to his knees after scoring to further delight the home fans in the biggest Stamford Bridge crowd since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, with more than 38,000 turning out.
“It is a dream for a boy like me being here and to play for my home club is unreal,” said Chalobah.
“As I was getting closer to the goal I though I might as well shoot and just went for it. I didn’t know the ball went in, I did not know what to do. I was over the moon.”
The Chelsea faithful gloated of their status as Champions League holders throughout the game while Kai Havertz, scorer of the only goal in their victory in the final over Manchester City, was given a hero’s reception when he came off the bench.
Club record signing Romelu Lukaku was not at the game as he is still observing coronavirus quarantine protocols after travelling to England from Italy following his 97.5-million-pound ($135 million) move from Inter Milan.
The Belgian, who fired Inter to the Serie A title last season with 24 league goals, will begin training on Monday and is set to make his second Chelsea debut away to Arsenal next Sunday.
Palace were out-classed in their first league game under coach Patrick Vieira and needed over an hour to have their first attempt on target, a tame header by Christian Benteke which goalkeeper Edouard Mendy caught comfortably.
CHELSEA ‘HARD TO HANDLE’
“They were hard to handle,” said Palace midfielder James McArthur.
“They caused us a few problems but we know we need to be better. The manager demanded us to try get on the ball and be a little braver, we just could not get out. A bad day at the office.”
Chelsea have enjoyed facing Palace as this was their eighth consecutive league win over them, while Pulisic scored for the fifth game running against the south Londoners.
Coach Thomas Tuchel, who oversaw a remarkable turnaround since taking over in January following Frank Lampard’s sacking, was animated as usual on the touchline and lost his temper on one occasion when Pulisic was too slow to start a potential counter attack.
Chelsea will feel confident of a serious push for a first Premier League title since 2017 in their first full season under the German tactician and are bound to get even more dangerous in front of goal when Lukaku is integrated into the team.
($1 = 0.7213 pounds)
Reporting by Richard MartinEditing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar
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