Chelsea manager Frank Lampard insisted his side’s target is still to reduce the gap on title favourites Liverpool and Manchester City, despite leapfrogging City into second place with a sixth straight Premier League win on Saturday.
The in-form Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic struck in the second half to beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea edge a point clear of City and to within five of leaders Liverpool, who host City in a highly-anticipated clash on Sunday.
“We respect where Liverpool and Manchester City are. That was the gap to try and bridge in some way going into the season,” Lampard told BT Sport on the possibility of a title challenge. “We are just happy with what we’re doing.”
A 4-4 draw with Ajax on Tuesday took the tally of goals in Chelsea’s prior 18 games this season to 70 at an average of nearly four per game. However, the Blues free flowing football was met with a brick wall of a Palace defence for the first 45 minutes.
“I was a little bit frustrated as I felt we allowed the tempo to drop in the first half,” added Lampard. “I felt if we increased the tempo the game was there to win.”
Pulisic had scored four goals in his last two Premier League games as the American begins to deliver on his £58 million price tag and only a fine save from Vicente Guaita denied the USA captain another strike early on.
Thereafter, Chelsea were largely restricted to efforts from free-kicks on the edge of the box before the break as Willian curled inches wide. Gary Cahill was making his return to Stamford Bridge after his seven years as a Chelsea player came to an end in the summer.
And Cahill reminded his former employers of why he won eight trophies for the club with a brilliant block to repel Willian’s goalbound effort in first half stoppage time.
The Palace resistance was finally broken by one moment of genius from Willian as Chelsea’s captain for the day flicked the ball perfectly into Abraham’s path to slot home his 10th Premier League goal of the season and join Leicester’s Jamie Vardy as the top scorer in the division.
Abraham is just one of a host of youngsters who have shone since being handed his chance in the first team by Lampard. “The number nines that have been at Chelsea are world class strikers. I felt ready in myself and I’m proud of myself,” said Abraham.
Pulisic tested Guaita again with a rising drive shortly after that the Spaniard did brilliantly to tip over. But Guaita was helpless 11 minutes from time when Pulisic finally got the goal his performance deserved by following up after Michy Batshuayi’s shot had been blocked to nod home.