LONDON -- Alvaro Morata scored twice as Chelsea withstood a scare from Crystal Palace -- delivered by Andros Townsend's second-half equaliser -- to maintain Maurizio Sarri's unbeaten start to Premier League football, moving them back to within two points of Manchester City.
Sarri's unbeaten start goes on and aside from the momentum that brings, there is a real calmness to Chelsea's belief that they can win regardless of the match situation. Morata is also finally meeting the standard required of a striker at an elite club -- now the challenge is simply for him to keep it up.
Sarri has been warning for weeks that Chelsea's defensive frailties will prevent them from keeping pace with City and he was proven right here, as Palace's speed and skill caused them fits on the counter-attack. They won, but there remains the sense they will pay for their vulnerabilities one day.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Sarri's starting XI encountered problems in the first half but his management of Morata is clearly paying off, and his substitutes -- it's always nice to be able to bring on the Premier League's best player this season, isn't it? -- turned a difficult game in exactly the way he wanted.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 -- Didn't have much to do in terms of saves but came off his line quickly to deny Wilfried Zaha an early chance, spraying an impressive first-time pass out to Azpilicueta in the process. Could do nothing about Townsend's neat finish to bring Palace level.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Had trouble with Palace's pace down his flank -- particularly Zaha and the overlapping Patrick van Aanholt -- as Chelsea toiled in the early stages, but stabilised as his team tightened their stranglehold on the midfield battle.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- Sarri no doubt wished Townsend had been in a footrace with the Germany international rather than Luiz for Palace's equaliser. He enjoyed a very solid night, winning the majority of his duels in the air and on the floor.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Did well to keep his cool when Zaha isolated him in the first half but his poor positioning contributed to their equaliser, as he was sucked towards the ball and then could not keep up with Townsend running in behind.
DF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Found very little space to make an impact as Palace defended deep and in numbers in the first half, but his relentless ambition paid off after the break as he found Pedro with a low cross for Chelsea's third.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Played a key role in keeping a lively Van Aanholt in check against his former club, covering the entire right side of the pitch with his usual blend of dynamism and intelligence. Rarely mislaid a pass either.
MF Jorginho, 7 -- Was slightly at fault for Palace's goal as James McArthur slipped in Townsend from the space he usually occupies, but the Italy international kept Chelsea's passing and pressing ticking over while making a few more interceptions than usual to snuff out counter-attacks.
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- His least decisive performance of recent weeks, and was solid without ever threatening to be decisive before Mateo Kovacic replaced him in the 64th minute.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 7 -- Has had a tough time of late with injuries and illness, but remains the most clinical finisher in the Chelsea squad and underlined his status with a deadly first-time finish from Alonso's low cross in the second half.
FW Alvaro Morata, 8 -- Seems to have rediscovered his instinctive touch in the penalty area and took his tally to five goals in his last six Chelsea appearances in all competitions. Missed a glorious late chance to complete his hat trick but this was another positive, encouraging display. It is also the standard required.
FW Willian, 6 -- This was his 11th start in a row and while he generally looks more dangerous cutting in from the left flank, there was a noticeable lack of pop and imagination in his play against Palace's massed defensive ranks.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Brought on to turn the match Chelsea's way and made an immediate impact, his free-kick running all the way through to Morata to score his second. Once ahead, few are better equipped than he is to help a team keep the ball.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Helped strengthen Chelsea's possession play when he came on for Barkley and looks distinctively more willing to shoot on sight these days, but it hasn't translated into goals yet.
MF Cesc Fabregas, N/A -- Earned only his second Premier League cameo of the season as Jorginho's replacement for the final 10 minutes, and Chelsea's defence did not suffer for it.