WHO needs Romelu Lukaku when you have Trevoh Chalobah?
As Chelsea’s returning £97million striker continued to self-isolate following his club record switch from Inter Milan, rookie defender Chalobah celebrated his Prem debut by scoring a belter the Belgian would have been proud of.
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The centre-back’s 25-yard rocket – which wrapped up the scoring in the 58th minute – reduced himself and Palace to tears, as so overcome by emotion he appeared to well up as he was congratulated by his team-mates.
Chalobah, 22, the younger brother of Watford midfielder Nathaniel – who also came through the Blues academy – was given the nod for his top flight bow by boss Thomas Tuchel after impressing in their European Super Cup win over Villarreal in Belfast on Wednesday.
And he carried on where he left off at Windsor Park with a wonderfully mature display on the right of Chelsea’s back three.
He did not put a foot wrong all afternoon, even if Palace were not up too much.
But opposition aside, Tuchel’s Eurostars sent out a warning to their top flight rivals as they eased to victory without several key stars including N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech, as well as Lukaku.
An opening-day trip to the Champions of Europe was never going to be the ideal start for Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace revolution.
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You feel Chelsea’s bench – featuring Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Kai Havertz – could have smashed the Eagles on their own.
Chelsea displayed the European Super Cup and Champions League trophy on pitchside plinths before kick off after lifting the former with that Belfast victory penalties over Villarreal.
“We know what we are, Champions of Europe, we know what we are,” bellowed the home fans in unison as they celebrated their return to Stamford Bridge.
The aim for them now is to try to regain the Premier League title.
Boss Tuchel claimed he was surprised his men are the bookies’ favourites to land the crown – although after splashing so much dosh on Romelu Lukaku he should not be.
Super Cup hero Kepa Arrizabalaga was back on the Blues bench having come off it to thwart the Villarreal in the shootout as Tuchel made five changes to his starting line-up from Wednesday.
This showed off his squad’s strength in depth which was in stark contrast to the riches at the disposal of his opposite number Vieira.
To describe Palace as a club in transition would be an unjust understatement.
There has been a complete overhaul at Selhurst Park this summer with eight key stars – including Mamadou Sakho, Gary Cahill, Scott Dann and Andros Townsend – gone out of the door in SE25.
With the average age of those left at 31.5 years compared to 21.5 of those few who have come in, you do not need to be a statistician to work out the Eagles are trying to head in a new direction with a younger squad.
But after being completely outclassed and with a bench looking painfully thin, they need to bring in more reinforcements quickly if their ninth consecutive season in the Prem is not to end in disaster.
The hosts, not surprisingly, dominated from the start, with Christian Pulisic seeing his header from Marcos Alonso’s 10th minute cross well saved by Eagles keeper Vicente Guaita.
Mateo Kovacic then fired wide before Mason Mount had a free kick fisted away by the Spanish stopper.
It was one-way traffic with Chelsea in total command and Palace’s Wilfried Zaha was clearly unhappy as he walked over to the touchline to make his feelings known to new boss Vieira. Brave boy.
The Eagles’ Ivory Coast idol must have known what was coming as Alonso curled in a brilliant 25-yard free kick past his compatriot Guaita to put the Blues 1-0 ahead in the 26th minute.
It was no more than they deserved, but if we thought that would calm down touchline Jack-in-the-box Tuchel we were wrong as moments later he was berating Pulisic for not releasing the ball quicker as his team threatened to attack again.
But the American provided the perfect response as slammed in Chelsea’s second after Guaita had spilled Mount’s low cross at the Shed End five minutes before the break.
There was still time for Timo Werner to almost add a third before his cuppa when he turned a shot into the side netting.
This compounded grumpy Zaha’s misery even more as he walked off at the interval moaning at his team-mates and probably blaming everyone but himself – despite recording the fewest number of touches in the first half than any other outfield player.
Blues started the second way just as they opened the first, with Alonso having a first-time volley from 20 yards tipped away by Guaita.
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Zaha had a chance to pull one back for Palace in the 54th minute but after going clean through he hesitated and his shot was blocked.
Then four minutes later came the moment debutant Chalobah, along with many Chelsea fans, will never forget, as he collected the ball deep in the Palace half and strode masterfully forward before unleashing a right-footed shot which flew into the bottom corner to get Tuchel off to a flying start.
As for Vieira, the French Frank de Boer anyone?
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