Chelsea eased the pressure on manager Graham Potter by securing just a second Premier League win since October with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Kai Havertz headed the winner in the 64th minute past Chelsea’s latest signing, Ukrainian winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who paraded onto the field at half time.
It was a moving day in west London as Chelsea paid tribute to former striker Gianluca Vialli, who died this month at the age of 58, before the game with a host of former Italian team-mates returning to pay their respects.
It contributed to a sense of unity between players and supporters at Stamford Bridge as the team overcame a terrible past seven days, culminating in a red card for new signing Joao Felix in a loss at Fulham on Thursday.
It was only a second win in the last 10 games in the league to take some of the pressure off Potter, with 10th-place Chelsea moving level on points with 9th-place Liverpool.
Palace had their first real chance of the game on 20 minutes, when Michael Olise flicked the ball over his shoulder and struck Kepa Arrizabalaga’s high angle from 25 yards. The Chelsea goalkeeper made a brilliant fingertip touch from behind at full length.
But it was the hosts who had the best chance of the first half in the 33rd minute when Havertz rose unmarked to receive a whipped cross from Hakim Ziyech, and the striker could only connect his header into the top of the net.
Just before half time, Conor Gallagher broke away down Palace’s right and fired a low cross that Lewis Hall failed to convert with a first try at the far post. Ziyech then saw a ferocious shot from the edge of the box brought down by Vicente Guaita as Chelsea finished the half strongly.
The hosts’ confidence grew in the second half and Havertz was close to him again as he latched on to Gallagher’s pass on the left, but his low shot was saved.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent off by Potter within the hour to recover from a back injury, the first of the manager’s long list of absences to return, and Chelsea soon took the lead.
Ziyech picked up the ball near the left touchline and, as his whipping cross evaded the Palace defence, Havertz scrambled higher to plant his header past Guaita.
Havertz should have put the game past Palace when he dove behind the defense to meet Mason Mount’s driven cross, but this time he lacked direction as a wonderful opportunity to seal the victory was lost.
And Chelsea came close to paying minutes later when Cheick Doucoure unleashed a ferocious shot from 30 yards that required a fine save from Arrizabalaga to preserve his team’s lead.