Fulham 0-3 Chelsea: Defence Lends A Hand As Blues Bounce Back
Chelsea responded to the disappointment of their FA Cup semi-final defeat with a convincing 3-0 win against neighbours Fulham at Craven Cottage. Here’s a report
Chelsea responded to the disappointment of their FA Cup semi-final defeat with a convincing 3-0 win against neighbours Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Chelsea were beaten 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday with Manchester City progressing to the competitions final in May and their attentions were turned very quickly towards the race for a Champions League spot. And David Luiz set the Blues on their way with a simply stunning goal from some 35-yards. John Terry doubled his sides lead just before half-time with a close range header and then went on to double his own goal tally with another headed effort, making sure Fernando Torres’ goal bound header made it over the line.
Rafael Benitez will be delighted with the way in which his team responded to Sundays cup defeat, whilst continuing his squad rotation policy following a packed schedule. Chelsea veterans Terry and Frank Lampard returned to the starting line up with Torres and Victor Moses also starting in attack.
Martin Jol’s Fulham might have sensed a team down on their luck visiting Craven Cottage; one tiring from a busy end of season run-in and the home side looked to take advantage of this early on. Bryan Ruiz went very close in the opening minutes and was just inches away from turning in Sascha Rieter’s whipped cross. John Arne-Riise should have done better when he let fly in the first half but his effort lacked the power to trouble ‘keeper Petr Cech whilst Giorgos Karagounis shot over the bar.
Both sides sought to take control of this game with Fulham just edging it in terms of chances, but it was the visitors who took the lead after half an hour and there was very little Fulham ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer could do to stop them. David Luiz, playing at centre half, found himself in space midway through the Fulham half and- not needing an invitation to shoot- the Brazilian unleashed an unstoppable rocket that flew past the diving Schwarzer and into the top right hand corner.
Out of the blue and into the net; were used to seeing David Luiz strike from distance and when he does score, they usually end up as contenders for goal of the season. This was no expection but Jol’s men did not let their heads drop as they continued to play some stylish football, sadly without the end product.
Once more against the run of play, Chelsea took command of this tie as they doubled their lead moments before half-time. Juan Mata took up possession wide on the right side before spotting Terry calling his attentions in the Fulham area. The Spaniard’s in-swinging cross landed perfectly between two opponents and Terry sneaked in to head past Schwarzer, low to the Australian’s right.
Chelsea has been far from impressive in their general play, but they managed to do what any team with high hopes for Champions League qualification can do: score against the run of play. The team that returned to the turf after half-time looked a different side to that which went into the tunnel, such was Chelsea’s confidence on the ball.
Whilst the Blues thought about breaking out the cigars, Fulham still posed a very real threat in this game and the outcome may well have been very different had Mladen Petric turned the ball in. The Croatian bizarrely appeared to divert Phillipe Senderos’ goalbound header away from goal when the defender looked certain to pull a goal back.
At 2-0 it is often said that the ‘next goal’ is crucial and Benitez was visibly delighted to see this precious commodity claimed by the visitors. With 15 minutes to play Torres headed goal-ward from a corner before Terry followed up to make sure from three yards. There was a Fulham defender guarding the line and it was not clear whether Torres’ initial header would have made it over, but Terry was alert to beat him to it.
As the Chelsea players celebrated, Terry appeared to share a joke with Torres, no doubt alluding to him ‘stealing’ the Spaniards goal. Whoever puts the ball over the line will matter little to the Chelsea faithful and interim boss Benitez. At this stage of the season more than any other, the result trumps all else: performances and goalscorers.
And it was by no means Chelsea’s best performance but they will take the plaudits for a convincing result which keeps them in third place in the Premier League and firm favourites for Champions League qualification. With a game in hand and a couple of first team regulars rested, the Blues will be confident ahead of a tricky test at Anfield on Sunday. The worry ahead of this derby was that Benitez’s men may have played one game too many and that the disappointment of an FA Cup exit may derail their end of season ambitions. On this evidence, there is still much to come from Chelsea.
If you haven’t seen the goals or want to relive the action again, you can watch all the goals from the game here.
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