Chelsea 2 Fulham 0: Blues back to winning ways as Oscar and Mikel send Mourinho’s men top of the table after derby win
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It is a good job Jose Mourinho is still special at Stamford Bridge.Chelsea remain a team in transition and, judging by yesterday’s win over Fulham, they are not entirely embracing the experience.
Were it not for his exalted status at the club, Mourinho might even be subject of a certain amount of vociferous frustration by now.Certainly, better first-half performances than this have been greeted by boos and catcalls under less well-liked managers.
For now, Stamford Bridge is prepared to give the Portuguese time. After all, they have waited so long for his return, it would be foolish to turn on him now.
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Back to winning ways: Oscar celebrates his goal – Chelsea’s first in more than four hours of Premier League football
Chelsea: Cech 6; Ivanovic 8, Cahill 7, Terry 7, Cole 6; Ramires 6, Mikel 7; Schurrle 6 (Lampard 79), Oscar 7, Hazard 7 (De Bruyne 85); Eto’o 6 (Torres 64, 6).
Subs not used: Schwarzer, Essien, Willian, Azpilicueta.
Goals: Oscar 52, Mikel 85.
Fulham: Stockdale 5; Riether 5, Amorebieta 6, Hangeland 6, Richardson 6; Duff 6 (Taarabt 64, 6), Parker 6, Sidwell 6, Kacaniklic 5 (Tue Na Bangna 72, 5); Kasami 6 (Rodallega 85); Bent 5.
Subs not used: Etheridge, Senderos, Karagounis, Zverotic.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
*Player ratings by SIMON CASS at Stamford Bridge
And, in the end, his side did get the expected three points, courtesy of a collector’s item — a goal from John Obi Mikel adding to Oscar’s opener.That at least gave the appearance of a comfortable win. But despite an improved second-half performance, Chelsea were insipid and flat.
You have to believe that Mourinho will put this right; that Chelsea will be restored to something like the team of old so revered here.But, for now, they remain a parody of that former self, a team vulnerable and unsure of themselves.
Surely only the victory would have pleased Mourinho?
Juan Mata and David Luiz were duly banished to the stands, sitting behind the Chelsea bench, as Mourinho made four changes from Wednesday night’s Champions League defeat by Basle.Willian and Frank Lampard, the other casualties, were at least afforded places on the bench.
If Mourinho had demanded a reaction to Wednesday night’s debacle, his players were neither capable of providing it nor willing to listen. Early on, Samuel Eto’o demonstrated his extraordinary knack of sniffing out goalscoring positions, accelerating to meet a Branislav Ivanovic cross.However, he only managed to prod the ball over the Fulham bar.
On target: Oscar breaks the deadlock at Stamford Bridge
A rarity: บ้านเดี่ยว บางนา John Obi Mikel stretches to score his first goal for 258 matches
Ecstatic: The midfielder was delighted with his goal
The visitors should have taken the lead on 14 minutes, when Pajtim Kasami put in Darren Bent.Clean through on goal, Stamford Bridge tensed collectively before Petr Cech parried the shot from close range.
In truth, Fulham were cautious, though their discipline and shape had to be commended. Any midfield with Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell marshalling will be hard to break down. Still, there was no disguising the fact that Chelsea looked the antithesis of the energetic bunch who greeted Mourinho’s arrival at Chelsea for the first time in 2004.
On the rare occasions Fulham counter-attacked, Chelsea looked slow to get back into shape and allowed play to develop in areas of space.The one moment of brief exhilaration came on 36 minutes when David Stockdale scooped the ball out and Eden Hazard responded with an instinctive volley. However, it cleared the bar and any excitement was quickly quelled.
Just before half-time, Ashley Cole’s quick feet and Hazard’s persistence managed to set up Ivanovic, charging down the right.His shot, on target at least, was deflected wide.
Back to winning ways: Jose Mourinho celebrated his first win in a month
Slightly better: Roman Abramovich was in the stands again to watch the victory
In the 52nd minute, there was finally a spark of creativity, Andre Schurrle driving into the box past his man and shooting.Stockdale failed to deal with the strike, parrying it away and allowing Eto’o a second chance from close range. The Fulham keeper again palmed that chance away but only to Oscar. From inside the area, the Brazilian had the simplest chance but still it took a Kieran Richardson deflection to ensure the ball crossed the line.
Chelsea had the breakthrough but even so they failed to play with the freedom they once had.Within two minutes, Fulham should have been level. Kasami’s floated free-kick found Sidwell at the far post but the midfielder, with a free header, directed the ball wide.
There was an improvement in Chelsea in the second half but still there was little to cheer.
Golden: Darren Bent missed a brilliant chance when the game was still 0-0
In pain: Scott Parker is felled by Gary Cahill
Flattened: Steve Sidwell leaves Eden Hazard on the floor after a challenge
On came Fernando Torres for the ineffective Eto’o in the 64th minute.Schurrle then attempted an ambitious free-kick from 35 yards that had Stockdale scrambling.
But Ivanovic’s surging runs down the right were proving Chelsea’s most dangerous outlet, an indictment on their attacking midfield trio.Indeed, the sighs of frustration were beginning to be the most frequent crowd interjections.
Only when John Terry headed substitute Frank Lampard’s corner back across goal in the 84th minute and Mikel responded with a delightful volley could Chelsea relax.
It was a momentous moment — Mikel’s first Premier Legaue goal in seven years at the club.More importantly, it stifled for now any dissent over the direction of this Chelsea team.
Drawing a blank: Samuel Eto’o again failed to find the mark for his new club
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Up in the air: John Terry directs the ball towards goal from a corner
Under pressure: Branislav Ivanovic is closed down by Pajtim Kasami
Battle: Ramires, attempts to tackle Alexander Kacaniklic
In control: Chelsea dominated large parts of the match
Support: Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale was one of a couple of Fulham players who wore the anti-homophobia laces – no Chelsea players wore them