Goals; Chelsea- Pedro (4′), Loftus-Cheek (82′)
Pedro and Loftus-Cheek goals helped a labored Chelsea side grab a much-needed win in the West-London Derby at home to Fulham in the Premier League.
Surprisingly, Fulham came quicker out of the blocks, with a low Cyrus Christie attempt being saved by Kepa in the first minute, showing the Cottagers intent in this London derby to make it difficult for the blues. However, their good start was ruined in the 4th minute when Seri was dispossessed in midfield by Kante, and he set up Pedro, who after a little trickery in the box slotted into the bottom corner past Rico calmly to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead at the bridge to relieve the tension within the crowd early on, to Claudio Ranieri’s frustration. That goal was also a landmark for the Blues, as that was their 1000th goal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League!
However, Chelsea’s good start failed to materialize as they failed to add a second goal before half-time but had 3 chances through Giroud in the first half to add to the lead, however, a mixture of poor finishing and good saves by Rico kept the score only at 1-0 going into half-time. Fulham didn’t have many chances in the first half, but Ranieri will be delighted to only go in at 1-0 down, as they had a really good chance to get back in this game in the second half.
For Chelsea, they started off brightly, however, they have failed to really push home their dominance in the first half. There were some worrying signs for the blues at halftime, with Alonso mishitting a lot of crosses into the box, and Chelsea’s star man Eden Hazard looking subdued and being kept at arm’s length by Ranieri’s side. Would this all change in the second half? Was this game calling out for Loftus-Cheek in the second half to add a bit more drive to the Blues midfield, to help them push home this slender advantage in the second half?
Fulham started the second half brightly and showed much more fight in the second half, and the difference between both halves was that Fulham did create chances to get level through Chambers and Le Marchand, but Kepa produced some outstanding saves to keep Chelsea 1-0 up. However as the half grew on, Chelsea did look like extending their lead, however, a woeful finish from Morata in the 72nd minute prevented that happening! But Chelsea did get the second goal to wrap up the game, and it was the sub, Loftus Cheek who after some brilliant link-up play with Hazard, finished calmly to give Chelsea the 3 points.
However, Fulham didn’t give up and that’s a credit to the work Ranieri has done in his little time so far in charge of Fulham. They showed resolve and grit to stay in the game as long as they did. For Chelsea, it wasn’t a good performance, but the most important thing is that Chelsea gained the 3 points, and they also gained a rare and needed clean sheet, most to Kepa’s credit.
That win for the Blues was their 1st win since the 4th of November in the Premier League when they beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Player and Manager Ratings
Kepa (MOTM)- 8- (Made some vital saves to keep Chelsea 1-0 up, especially from Chambers)
Azpilicueta- 6 (Average. Wasn’t tested much)
Rüdiger- 6 (Average. Wasn’t tested much)
Luiz- 6 (Average. Wasn’t tested much)
Alonso- 6 (Average. Wasn’t tested much)
Jorginho- 7 (Had time to pick lovely passes through Fulham’s defense)
Kante- 8 (Got a lovely assist for Pedro’s goal after a lovely interception on Seri)
Kovacic- 5 (No creativity. Offered nothing special to the game)
Pedro- 7 (Good goal. Other than that, didn’t do too much)
Giroud- 6 (Had quite a few chances, but Rico made some good saves)
Hazard- 6 (Average. So subdued)
Morata- 5 (Didn’t do too much other than miss an open goal)
Zappacosta- 5 (Didn’t impact the game)
Loftus-Cheek- 9 (Good goal and injected some pace and intensity to the game)
Manager rating- Maurizio Sarri- 8 (Picked a perfect team. Only criticism of him is that he brought on Loftus-Cheek too late in my opinion)
Rico- 7 (Made some vital saves from the likes of Giroud)
Le Marchand- 6 (Had a chance to score and played pretty well)
Mawson- 5 (Suspect defensively for Pedro’s goal)
Odoi- 4 (Very poor defensively)
Christie- 6 (Had a chance in the first minute, but defensively was caught out on a few occasions)
Chambers- 6 (Had a chance to score but Kepa made a great save. Was pretty influential for Fulham in the attacking sense which was surprising!)
Seri- 5 (Made a mistake for Chelsea’s first goal)
Sessegnon- 4 (Anonymous)
Cairney- 4 (Wasn’t influential at all)
Johansen- 3 (Didn’t do anything of any notice)
Mitrovic- 5 (Starved of possession in the first half but grew into the game in the second half)
Ayite- 5 (Didn’t make any impact when he came on)
Kamara- 5 (Didn’t make any impact when he came on)
Kebano- 5 (Had little time to impact the game)
Manager Rating- Claudio Ranieri- 7- Choose the right team, but his team didn’t attack and trouble Chelsea’s defense enough. However, they do look a lot more solid and resolute under Ranieri which is a positive. They also have a never say die attitude which could help them survive in the League.
Possession (%) 66 34
Shots 16 9
Shots on Target 9 4
Corners 4 6
Fouls 8 17
Position in PL Table
At the end of today’s action, Chelsea moves up to third with 31 points, and are a point ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham due to Arsenal’s 4-2 dramatic win over Tottenham earlier today. However, Liverpool is still 5 points ahead of the blues in second after their dramatic 1-0 win over Everton in the Merseyside Derby earlier today. Chelsea is still 7 points off Manchester City at the top of the table, But could reduce it next week when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge on the weekend.]
For Fulham, they remain rock bottom of the table with 8 points, and a goal difference of -21. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as they are showing signs of progression and are only 2 points of 17th placed Huddersfield who is just outside the relegation zone. But there were many positive signs from
Next Games for both teams
Both teams are next in action midweek, with Premier League fixtures scheduled for both teams in this busy Christmas period. Both teams play on Wednesday at 7:45 pm (UK time) with Chelsea facing Wolves away from home at the Molineux, with Claudio Ranieri making an emotional return to his former side Leicester where he won the title so unexpectedly!
Check out Chivers and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s Post Match analysis podcast later on in the week on Sportstalkline.com
By Danyal Khan