Géremi the gem as Chelsea flaunt new riches at Palace

Crystal Palace 1 Chelsea 2
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The Independent Football

A day after Chelsea had paraded their new signings at Stamford Bridge, and a week after they had won a friendly competition in Malaysia, it was finally time for an English audience to lay eyes upon this expensively assembled squad and see for themselves how they would operate.

However, solid proof of Chelsea's new worth on the pitch - their worth off it is now well-documented thanks to Roman Abramovich's munificence - will come when they play their Champions' League qualifier in 10 days' time, but for now this victory by a slender margin will have to do.

On a day when all Chelsea's new boys played, their manager, Claudio Ranieri, was happy with a win and he said: "It was a good match for us. We needed it." Not that the Italian failed to cast an uncritical eye on his charges, both new and old, as he added: "Everybody wanted to play too much. We were not like a team, but 11 single players. It was not so bad in the first half but was bad in the second half. It is important to be a team."

Among those were record signing Damien Duff, all £17m of him from Blackburn Rovers, on the left of midfield, while Wayne Bridge, £7m from Southampton, supported him from left-back.

Those were expected positional plays by Ranieri, but he sprang one slight surprise by playing Géremi in the centre of midfield next to Frank Lampard, and the Cameroon international - also £7m and from Real Madrid - impressed his manager. He usually plays on the right, and ended up there in the second half, as a welter of substitutions saw things changed around.

At right-back was the last of the new boys, and the youngest, the 18-year-old Glen Johnson, who signed for £3m from West Ham. The teenager suffered the most of the new acquisitions, as Palace frequently got in behind him but he looked impressive going forward.

On a blisteringly hot afternoon the initial dazzle came from the triumvirate of Duff, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Mikaël Forssell. It was not so much their sparkling feet but their blond hair that dazzled, and hinted if ever they fancied a sideline as a boy band, then it is theirs for the taking. But Forssell, who spent last season away from Chelsea on loan, stole Duff's thunder as he was on hand after just four minutes to take control in the penalty box and slip his shot past Matt Clarke.

Dougie Freedman equalised from a pass that caught out Johnson, and he lobbed Carlo Cudicini after 40 minutes, and from similar positions he could have had a hat-trick in the second half. But Géremi it was, with a free-kick from 30 yards, who scored the winner on the stroke of half-time.

Ranieri is not looking to reinforce his defence, although he does expect to make some additions to his squad before the month is out. However, when asked about rumours of Juan Sebastian Veron's possible arrival, he said he knew nothing and then made a Pinocchio-like gesture. With Chelsea, as ever, it is a case of watch this space.

Crystal Palace 1
Freedman 40

Chelsea 2
Forssell 5, Géremi 44

Half-time: 1-2 Attendance: 21,477

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