Chelsea back on song for 2016 with win over Crystal Palace
The reigning champions register first away win since August as Hiddink oversees Chelsea recovery
Crystal Palace 0 Chelsea 3.
A comfortable win at Crystal Palace earned Chelsea their first away win in the league since August and provided further evidence of the improvement in the Blues since Guus Hiddink took charge at Stamford Bridge following the dismissal last month of Jose Mourinho.
Unbeaten in their last three league outings, Chelsea are enjoying their best spell of a turbulent season and Sunday's win at Selhurst Park moves the reigning champions up to 14th, still 12 points shy of a Champions League spot and a massive 19 points behind Arsenal, who maintained their position at the top of the table with a 1-0 win at home to Newcastle on Saturday.
Despite the resounding win Hiddink, in charge until the end of the season, was quick to caution against getting carried away. "Do not go over the top, it is the first win after a worrying period with two draws so the team desperately needed the win," he told reporters in response to their words of praise. "Everyone knows we have a lot of quality in our team, but sometimes champions have a tendency to be complacent and it can be difficult to get back and then wonder why we were champions."
Asked if he believed Chelsea could finish in the top four come May, Hiddink said: "There is a long way to go, mathematically the possibility of Champions League is still there. The league is so strong but as long as we play like we did today I will be happy."
Hiddink would certainly have been pleased with the performance of Diego Costa, the much maligned Spanish striker, who created Chelsea's opening goal with a through ball that was buried by Oscar on 29 minutes. Willian doubled the visitors' advantage on the hour mark with a thumping shot and six minutes later Costa added a third as he pounced after the Palace defence had failed to deal with Willian's initial shot.
Other than an injury to Eden Hazard, who was forced off after 15 minutes with a groin problem, it was a perfect day for the Blues as captain John Terry later admitted. "This was the Chelsea of last year," he told Sky Sports. "The football was first class and we kept the ball in tough conditions. A near year, a new start, we just have to keep winning games now. We are delighted and it is the feeling we want."
On the impact Hiddink has made since his arrival just over a fortnight ago, Terry explained: "Guus has been great since he has come in. It was unfortunate what happened but he has come in and picked everyone up. We are where we are, we have not dwelled on it. If we can put together a run of games who knows hopefully we can go a long way".