Mauricio Pochettino praised a “deserved” Chelsea victory after watching his side resist a late Luton fightback to sign off 2023 with a 3-2 win.
Chelsea looked to be cruising as a Cole Palmer brace sandwiched a goal from Noni Madueke to put them 3-0 up with 10 minutes remaining at Kenilworth Road.
There was then late drama, with Ross Barkley and Elijah Adebayo netting for the Hatters, but Pochettino was satisfied that his team were worthy of the win.
“I think we controlled the game until 65 minutes,” he said. “We were the better side and we fully deserved the result. (There were) many positive performances.
“When you concede it increases the opponent’s belief. The Premier League is like this. If you see (Luton’s) previous games – against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle – you can understand the difficulty of playing here.
“We need to give them credit. They really believe in the way they play. It’s always tough to play here. We got what we wanted.
“Football is about emotions. When you’re winning 3-0, always you’re still nervous because things can happen to put the game in a difficult situation. We conceded one goal and their belief increased, that’s normal.
“Too many games that has happened in the Premier League. Brighton led against Tottenham 4-0 (on Thursday), in the end it was 4-2. That’s why the Premier League is tough.”
The win ended a run of four straight losses away from home for Chelsea, their worst streak on the road in 23 years, and means they have now taken nine points from their last four games.
With Madueke included from the start for only the second time this season and responding by scoring his second goal in two matches, the manager said he was pleased that his fringe players are proving capable of impactful contributions.
“That’s why you have a big squad,” he said. “We have plenty of numbers when they’re all fit, many players that can perform. It’s very positive to increase the level in all positions.”
Chelsea struck first on 12 minutes through Palmer, rifling into the bottom corner after Issa Kabore’s error had gifted him the ball inside the box.
Madueke made it two, rocketing in when he stood up Amari’i Bell and shot high into Thomas Kaminski’s top corner.
Chelsea’s third and the moment of the match came from Palmer. Nicolas Jackson showed good strength to take control in midfield, turn his man and play a clever early ball through, though at that stage Palmer still had plenty to do.
Kaminski came out, but in shaping to shoot Palmer got the better of the Luton goalkeeper with a sublime roll of his boot over the top of the ball, outfoxed the covering defender Albert Sambi Lokonga who went to ground, and knocked in what at the stage looked like the goal that would kill the game.
But Luton had performed well here in recent games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City before beating Newcastle last time out, and ensured Chelsea did not walk away easily with their three points.
First Barkley headed in against his former team from a corner, then Adebayo was quickest to the rebound after Djordje Petrovic had saved Alfie Doughty’s effort, as Rob Edwards’ side gave the visitors an uncomfortable finish.
Luton boss Edwards reflected on a game in which his team showed further evidence of their progress in the top flight.
“We have evolved a lot,” he said. “I like the way we are moving and we have the second part of the season to improve.
“I like what I am seeing. The boys are fully committed and we will continue to keep working hard and building.”