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Chelsea: Hakim Ziyech was the real hero v Crystal Palace

Chelsea returned to winning ways against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, narrowly beating their London rivals courtesy of a Kai Havertz header, and the victory could now serve as the catalyst for positive change. 

Having lost seven of their previous ten games across all competitions, victory was indeed imperative for Blues boss Graham Potter as he looks to steady the ship, and three points now creates a sturdy platform to build upon, with a trip to Liverpool awaiting next weekend.

Chelsea’s second victory in five league outings takes them onto 28 points from 19 matches and instils some much-needed optimism after a tough few weeks.

With Havertz wheeling away in celebration and Mason Mount pumping the air with joyful fists of celebration, £88.5m weekend signing Mykhaylo Mudryk watched on from the stands, his presence emboldening the Blues’ ranks.

While Chelsea’s German talisman stole the headlines, and superlative veteran centre-back Thiago Silva produced a momentous display of defensive might (winning all 11 of his duels), it was winger Hakim Ziyech who orchestrated the win, pulling the strings and producing an all-encompassing display which will undoubtedly leave Potter delighted.

Having made 14 appearances across all competitions this term, the Moroccan’s well-placed assist for Havertz’s driven header was his first direct goal involvement of the campaign. That outlay will need marked improvement, although the 29-year-old has only started three Premier League games so far in 2022/23.

There has been speculation over his future at Stamford Bridge, with Serie A champions AC Milan among the reported suitors for the creative playmaker in recent weeks.

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Against Palace, his 8.0 Sofascore rating was a telling reminder of the robust performance that he can produce in pivotal situations; without his ingenuity and flair, Chelsea might have failed to break down a resolute Eagles backline.

Alongside his assist, Ziyech took 85 touches and played two key passes, indeed creating one ‘big chance’.

Completing four of his five dribbles, winning a remarkable 12 ground duels and making a stunning five tackles all serve to illustrate the omnipresent approach that he brought to the pitch, flourishing in subduing Palace attacks and instigating promising forward transitions of his own.

Only Kepa Arrizabalaga between the posts boasted a better match rating on the afternoon, and Potter will hope that the 50-cap Ziyech can channel this destructive aura when the Blues make the trip to Anfield next weekend.

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Cesc Fabregas in action for Chelsea

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Prominent statistical website Squawka hailed the Moroccan for his “monster” performance on Sunday, highlighting the robust level of performance which oozed from his very core.

With Chelsea now establishing a base from which to build, Ziyech has staked his claim for a consistent run in the starting line-up; and following from such a stellar showing, he might just have a say in further crucial moments as Potter looks to restore balance and control at Stamford Bridge.