Chelsea 2 Fulham 0
Chelsea bounced back from two defeats in a row to record their first win in four games against Fulham on Saturday afternoon. After a cagey first half where the visitors came closest to breaking the deadlock the home side finally opened the scoring through Oscar before John Mikel Obi scored his first Premier League goal ever and sealed the win for his side.
José Mourinho made changes to the side which lost against Basel in midweek, with John Terry back in as captain in the centre of defence, replacing David Luiz whilst Ramires was available again having been suspended in midweek. He came in along with Mikel as Frank Lampard and Marco Van Ginkel made way with Andre Schurrle replacing Willian on the right.
As anticipated, Fulham started the game defensively, presumably hoping to grind Chelsea down before hitting them on the break. In fact, the Cottagers even had an early sight of goal when former Blue Steve Sidwell got his head onto a chipped ball over the top but he couldn’t hit the back of the net with his header. At the other end Samuel Eto’o got onto a similar ball from Branislav Ivanovic but he was unable to do anything productive with it either.
It was cagey stuff but a decent chance was presented to Fulham shortly after Eto’o’s mistimed header. Mikel was at fault as he gave the ball away to Bent and the striker advanced on Petr Cech, but our number one rushed out of his box to clear the ball and avert the danger.
Just moments later, Bent had an even better opportunity to give his side the lead and this time Chelsea were extremely fortunate to get away with it. Ramires was the man at fault as he gave the ball away and Bent received it to beat the offside trap and advance on Cech. This time he looked certain to score but Cech managed to save again and Chelsea managed to stay level.
At the other end, there were appeals for a penalty from Chelsea however when Hazard went down inside the box. There was definitely contact between him and Sascha Riether but it was perhaps not a hefty enough challenge for the referee to point to the spot.
Chelsea’s main threat was coming in the air with their passing game on the ground all too often failing in the face of stern defending from the visitors. A Schurrle free-kick from the right was headed on by Ramires but saved by Stockdale before the Fulham keeper made a bit of a mess of a corner sent in by the German. Fortunately for the visitor’s keeper, the ball didn’t fall to a Chelsea shirt.
The home side were definitely starting to dominate the game as the half wore on, although they were still failing to produce any significant chances. Hazard had a go on a couple of occasions towards the end of the half, one a long range effort that had no chance of troubling Stockdale, and the other a volley that flew off-target.
Just before the break, Chelsea went as close as they had all game when Ashley Cole took the ball away from the Fulham defenders and set up Ivanovic, but the Serbian’s effort was deflected off target and behind by defenders in white shirts.
It was a frustrating half for the hosts who had wanted to bounce back from recent disappointments with a good display against their local rivals, and a more incisive touch in front of goal was required if they were to take the points.
Thankfully. it took just five minutes of the second half for that goal to arrive. Hazard burst forward from midfield and found Schurrle, who darted inside and fired a shot at goal. Stockdale got hands to the ball but made a mess of the save as he spilled the ball to Mikel who forced another save but again Stockdale couldn’t hold on to the ball. The second time around it fell to Oscar and he tucked it home from close range to make it 1-0 Chelsea.
It was a moment of relief for everyone at Stamford Bridge but surprisingly it didn’t dramatically alter the course of play. Both sides were soon back into the rhythm of the first half with the home team struggling to break down their opponents, and Fulham doing little to suggest they could score themselves.
Just after the hour mark. Mourinho opted to make a change to try and get the second goal that would surely see his side home. Fernando Torres was brought on for Eto’o who had a decent game without finding the net for his new club.
Again, Chelsea were left frustrated in their appeals for a penalty soon after Torres was introduced, with Ramires caught inside the box by Amorebieta. Again there was definitely some contact, but referee Marriner waved play on as Chelsea’s search for a second goal continued.
With just under fifteen minutes left, Mourinho made another change with Lampard coming on to replace Schurrle who had enjoyed a decent game. Chelsea were beginning to turn the screw by this stage and it looked like a second goal really wasn’t too far off. Ramires forced a corner through a Stockdale save and when the ball was whipped in, Torres got there with a powerful header but the Fulham keeper tipped it over the crossbar.
However, that corner led to the second goal. Terry met the delivery into the area with his head and it fell for Mikel who spun and hooked his foot onto the ball and guided it past Stockdale for his first ever league goal for Chelsea and his first in any game since January 2007. There were wild celebrations from his teammates, but more important than ending his goal drought was the fact that Chelsea were now well on the way to a victory.
Fulham were now finished and didn’t even look like grabbing a consolation goal in the dying moments. It was in many ways a vintage Mourinho performance and it sends Chelsea, briefly at least, to the top of the Premier League table.
Chelsea; Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Schurrle (Lampard 78), Oscar, Hazard (De Bruyne 84), Eto’o (Torres 63)
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Essien, Willian
Scorers; Oscar 50, Mikel 84
Referee; A Marriner