Visitors Chelsea FC registered their first Premier League away win in 2019 as they held off a stubborn Fulham FC to register a 2-1 victory at the Craven Cottage in the famously known West London Derby on Sunday.
All the goals were settled in the first half courtesy of strikes from Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho for the Blues and a Calum Chambers goal for the Cottagers in the 27th minute.
Chelsea came into this match on the backdrop of a 2-0 midweek victory over fellow London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs on Wednesday, and looked forward to a second successive Premier league win in a span of 4 days. On the other hand, the hosts, Fulham FC were coming into this match after a 1-0 loss to Southampton on Tuesday and with a new interim tactician on the Cottagers touchline, Scott Parker and his Fulham side looked ready to get a much needed victory over Chelsea since March 2006.
Blues’ manager, Maurizio Sarri made five changes to the winning team against Tottenham Hotspurs as Kepa Arrizabalaga made a comeback in between the sticks for Willy Caballero. The issue between the keeper and the manager seemed to have been well handled and sorted. Fulham only made one change to the team that lost to Southampton at St Mary’s as youngster Ryan Sessegnon made a comeback to the starting lineup in place of Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Characteristic of a team that had lost 7 of their last 8 matches, the hosts were on the back foot early into the game as they made a series of quick challenges that led to a near goal as Gonzalo Higuain headed Willian’s inswinging free kick wide of Sergio Rico’s goal.
Fulham however came back into life as the crowd appreciated their efforts. It was not long until Kepa Arrizabalaga almost made a blunder as he cocked up a McDonald ball that was targeting Ryan Babel upfront. Close shave! 2 minutes later, it was the visitors who got the lead as Gonzalo Higuain smashed the ball past Sergio Rico from a sumptuous low cross from Cesar Azipilicueta to bag his third goal in a Blues shirt. 1-0 Chelsea!
Fulham pressed in the forward gear immediately after going down and had a clear chance by Alexander Mitrovic tipped over the bar by Chelsea’s shotstopper Kepa Arrizabalaga.Moments later, it was all level as Calum Chambers, left in acres of space, produced a moment of brilliance as he cleverly curled a shot past Kepa to make it 1-1.
Chelsea looked stunned by that spectacular equaliser but took the lead once again in the 32nd minute as Jorginho completed a swift move from the back to shoot past Rico at the edge of the box after a Hazard assist. It was all Chelsea from then on as they looked set to close out the game in the first half.
However, it would remain 2-1 at half time after Rico produced neat saves to deny Hazard and Higuain from sealing the tie. Fulham looked so vulnerable at the back and were lucky to be trailing by only a single goal.
Fulham seemed to be the better team in the second half and especially after the hour mark as they pressed for an equaliser. Chelsea looked off and a tired Hazard was substituted with 20 minutes remaining. A goal for the hosts looked probable as Chelsea soaked in the huge pressure from Ryan Babel, Zambo Anguissa, Tom Cairney and Mitrovic, who looked lethal in the closing stages.
Kepa Arrizabalaga produced another stunning save as he kept out Mitrovic’s glancing header from Ayite’s cross in the 88th minute. Ryan Sessegnon thought that he had got the equaliser deep into injury time only for his neat effort to be ruled offside. Scott Parker couldn’t believe it as his side slumped to yet another loss in South West London Derby!
Fulham had now lost 10 London derbies in a single season, more than any other team and the team was left staring at potential relegation, 10 points adrift 17th place.
Chelsea’s win pushed the side to 56 points, 1 point behind 5th placed Arsenal FC and 2 behind 4th placed Manchester United with a game against Brighton and Hove Albion in hand.
Chelsea next face Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League round of 16 at the Stamford Bridge on Thursday as Fulham travel to King Power Stadium to face Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City on Saturday, as the former’s survival battle continues to heat up.