Luton Town 2-3 Chelsea. Cole Palmer starred as Chelsea ended a miserable 2023 with an important win after withstanding a late Luton fightback at Kenilworth Road.
The Blues took the lead in the 12th minute when a poor clearance from Luton’s Issa Kabore set up the £42.5m England forward to drill low into the far corner past Thomas Kaminski.
Palmer assisted Chelsea’s second as he worked the ball from left to right, feeding to Noni Madueke who dribbled past Amari’i Bell and smashed the ball from a tight angle into the top corner.
Chelsea looked assured on 70 minutes with Palmer adding a third in a standout moment of individual skill. He stayed calm in the area to roll the ball away from the goalkeeper, then again from sliding defenders before slotting home from close range.
But Luton refused to give in and thought they had pulled a goal back through Elijah Adebayo before his header was ruled out for an offside in the build-up.
Six minutes later they did score as Ross Barkley headed home from Alfie Doughty’s corner.
The Hatters threw players forward, hitting Chelsea with an onslaught of crosses that they struggled to cope with. The pressure told and Adebayo nodded in a second for Luton, setting up a nervous final few minutes for the visitors, but Chelsea were able to hold on for the win.
Mauricio Pochettino will be glad of the victory, their second in four days, but disappointed with the way his side dealt with what should have been a comfortable end to the match.
Luton are still in the relegation zone but this was another performance that will give them hope they can stay in the Premier League, having again pushed one of the league’s traditional elite right until the end.
Palmer has been Chelsea’s best player this season and his performance against Luton Town again highlighted the quality he has brought to Pochettino’s side since his move from Manchester City.
His goal in the first half was a lethal finish after a poor clearance landed the ball at his feet, and his pass to Madueke was perfectly timed as Chelsea attacked.
This was the fourth Premier League game this season in which Palmer has scored and assisted.
He is also only the fifth Chelsea player to reach double figures for goal involvements (eight goals, five assists) in a single Premier League season while aged 21 or under, joining Arjen Robben, Eden Hazard, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount.
His second goal highlighted his composure as he stayed calm to dribble around Kaminski and roll the ball between two Luton defenders on the goalline.
Palmer was well-supported by his former England U21 team-mate Madueke who was dangerous throughout the game, his ability to go either inside or outside his marker causing Luton problems.
Pochettino praised Madueke for the way he responded to being out of the team following his match-winning performance against Crystal Palace in the week, and the winger put in another positive performance this time out.
Luton were looking as if they were well out of the game before Barkley launched a counterattack.
The former England and Chelsea midfielder’s energy drove the team forward and he went close when he curled over a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area.
Rob Edwards’ side will be disappointed to have missed out on what could have been when Adebayo hit the crossbar from close range and substitute Morris’ header was pushed on to the bar by Djordje Petrovic as they looked to secure an unlikely point.
source – BBC