Chelsea's defensive issues were prevalent once more as Frank Lampard's side recorded a 3-2 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud put Blues two goals up before the half-hour mark, although they conceded twice before the full-time whistle was blown, with substitute Tammy Abraham's goal in between ultimately earning Chelsea their 18th win of the season. The win lifted Chelsea five points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United, who play their game in hand against Aston Villa on Thursday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Abraham really made an impact on the game when replacing Billy Gilmour and Giroud respectively with little more than 20 minutes to play. The pair combined excellently and individually played with great maturity. Elsewhere, Reece James' darting runs down the right frequently put Palace in a spot of bother while Pulisic's injection of pace perhaps earned the visitors three points rather than one.
The greatest concern will sit with Blues' defensive efforts. Palace had scored only 28 goals in 33 games prior to this evening's kickoff, perhaps generating a timely challenge for Lampard's back four. But James, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta were again open to criticism when the full-time whistle sounded.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Amid Chelsea's efforts to secure a top-four spot, Lampard will be desperate to solve his players' increasingly concerning habit of conceding two goals a game. Goal-shy Palace frequently made light work of Blues' back four, and therefore it would be presumed that more training-ground work will be on the manager's agenda before Saturday's trip to Sheffield United.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 -- Would've been left red-faced had James McArthur's failed lob following an abysmal clearance found the back of the net in the opening minutes. Can't be blamed for Wilfried Zaha's fine goal, which rocketed into the top corner.
DF Reece James, 7 -- Troubled Palace every time he moved down the right. James can consider himself unlucky not to have an assist to his name, as his crosses were accurate and often set up on a plate for the advancing forwards. Defensively, he played sound.
DF Kurt Zouma, 6 -- An early headed attempt at goal that flashed wide underlined Zouma's dangerous ability to move forward, but defensively he will be frustrated to have conceded two goals.
DF Andreas Christensen, 5 -- Form is starting to drop off after a fair start to Project Restart. Could've been better positioned in the buildup to Zaha's goal and could be lacking in confidence.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- The Blues lost their defensive structure toward the end of the opening half, and Azpilicueta wasn't immune to making the odd rushed decision. Crucially lost Patrick van Aanholt in the buildup to Palace's second, too.
MF Billy Gilmour, 6 -- An all-action performance in what was an end-to-end opening half. But perhaps Gilmour was caught too often in the wrong place at the wrong time as gaps were left for Palace to exploit; Zaha did just that before unleashing the hosts' opener.
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- Taken off shortly after the hour mark as Lampard evidently looked to reestablish some midfield control amid Palace's advances to equalise. Will enjoy better games, though fitness clearly no issue.
MF Mason Mount, 7 -- Wonderful spatial awareness allowed Mount to frequently escape his markers and add a fresh dimension to Blues' attacking options. Linked up well with midfield partner Gilmour to round off a fine performance.
FW Willian, 8 -- Completed two visionary passes to grab a pair of first-half assists that helped put the visitors in charge. Impressive with his forward-thinking runs to complement the ruthless work of Pulisic and Giroud.
FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- A true poacher's finish helped Giroud and Chelsea open their account for the evening with only minutes on the board. Should've added more to his name, but squandered multiple opportunities to conclude a mixed game before being subbed.
FW Christian Pulisic, 8 -- Boasted his physical attributes by taking control of proceedings down the left and was rewarded with a deserved goal. Great visionary play to pick out the advancing Willian and Giroud on occasions too.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 8 -- Intelligent counterattacking play helped create the space Abraham required to add Blues' third goal in the closing 20 minutes.
FW Tammy Abraham, 7 -- Completed the work that Loftus-Cheek started to score a fine team goal on 71 minutes.
MF Jorginho, N/R -- Made his first appearance of Project Restart in a 10-minute cameo replacing Gilmour.