10-man Blues in crisis as Fulham deservingly beat their neighbours 2-1 at the Cottage
By Paul Lagan at Craven Cottage
Fulham 2 v Chelsea 1
Fulham took full advantage of the turmoil and chaos at Stamford Bridge which saw Blues debut boy Joao Felix red-carded to register a deserved 2-1 win at the Cottage tonight.
Goals from William and Carlos Vinicius was sandwiched by an equaliser from Kalidou Koulibaly, which was the only highlight for the noisy neighbours from up Fulham Road.
Chelsea have only taken seven points from their last nine league matches and that’s bordering on relegation form.
The visit of Crystal Palace to the Bridge on Sunday could result in greater drift down the league. Chelsea are currently 10th.
Compare that to their hosts, who showed togetherness, a collective sense of purpose and belief in the tactics of manger Marcos Silva.
The loss of Felix was a death blow for Chelsea. Up until his stupid and dangerous lunge on 58 minutes, the visitors had restored parity and were looking a fairly decent outfit. He was lively and could have notched up a couple of goals. Instead he was jeered off the Craven Cottage pitch and mocked by the home supporters as being a waste of money.
He will be lost for three matches now and the expensive loan deal is looking very expensive indeed.
Chelsea had a great chance to open the score on two minutes. Excellent set up play by new boy Joao Felix and Kai Havertz set up Lewis Hall, but his left-footer went straight to Berne Leno who blocked the effort with his right leg.
Fulham got to grips with the game and took advantage of several turnovers from the Chelsea midfield - not for the first time this season.
Ex-Blue William was potent on the left, and on eight minutes, they had their best chance of the game when Carlos Vinicius had a rasping 25-yarder sail inches wide of Kepa’s left post.
Felix was involved in all the build-up play for Chelsea and was scythed down on several occasions.
He was unlucky on 15 minutes when he failed to connect properly with a right byline cross, and he arrowed the ball into row z instead.
Fulham had a shout for a penalty on 16 minutes, VAR looked at it and agreed with referee David Coote’s decision not to award a spot kick.
Fulham, on the counter-attack looked threatening every time, and on 24 minutes, Bobby De Cordova-Reid let fly with a powerful right-footed slicer that beat Kepa but rebounded off the crossbar.
A minute later and the home side’s fans were in rapture as they took the lead.
The ball fell on the left to William, and the winger, who spent seven years in a Blue shirt took a low drive from the edge of the Chelsea area.
The ball took a wicked deflection off the inside of Trevoh Chalobah’s right leg sending it past Kepa and into the left-hand corner of his net.
Felix had a goal-bound left-footer snuffed out by Lenoas the visitors attempted a quick response.
A defence-splitting pass by Mateo Kovacic freed Felix up but his attempted flick on, failed to materialise and the ball drifted into Leon’s arms.
Excellent play by Havertz saw him disposes Tosin inside the Fulham penalty area. He passed the ball onto Felix who saw his daisy-cutter well blocked by the ever impressive Leno on 40 minutes.
Kepa fluffed a simple header from Vinicius two minutes from the break and was lucky Cesar Azpilicueta was on hand to hack the ball clear.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
It took two minutes for the Blues to get level.
A fine run by ball saw him hauled down for a free-kick.
Up stepped Mason MOunt to arrow a curling right footer onto the post, off Leon’s leg. The ball fell invitenly to Klidou Koulibaly who crashed the ball home.
Leno was behind the goal and cleared the ball, but Coote indicated that the ball had gone over the line.
Andreas Pereira had a good chance to restore the lead on 55 minutes when he broke free through the Chelsea defence. With Kep struggling to get back, he could have lifted the ball over him, but he opted to take a few more touches before trying a shot. Kepa had recovered sufficiently to block the shot for a corner.
Jorginho was a forced substitution on 56 minutes after Denis Zakaria was injured and he limped off the pitch.
Felix’a night ended on 58 minutes when he went infor a highly dangerous challenge on Kenny Tete.
Surrounded by plywrs on both sides desperate to influence Coote, the referee took his time to calm the situation before rightly brandishing the red card to the on-loan striker from Atletico Madrid who is banned for three matches.
Despite down to 10 men, Havertz cruised through the Fulham rearguard on 64 minutes, But once again Leno was there to block the effort.
Harrison Reed was Fulhams’ first change on 68minutes, with Tom Cairney replacing him. Harry Wilson then replaced De Cordova-Reid.
Ut their superior numbers counted with 18 minutes left on the clock.
Vinicius was perfectly placed and unchallenged as he met a deep cross. His perfect header was simplicity itself as it sailed over Kepa and into the back of his net.
A quadruple substitution took place for Chelsea, off came Chalobah, Hall, Mount and Kovacic. On came, Conor Gallagher, Carney Chukwuemeka, Hakim Ziyech and Marc Cucurella.
It made little difference other than to shore up the defence a bit. But by then, Fulham were content to hold onto their led and take the west London bragging rights - for now.
Teams: Fulham, Leno, Tete, Tosin, Reed, Ream, De Cordova-Reid, Pereira, Willian, Palhinha, Vinicius, Robinson
Subs: Rodak, Kurzawa, Wilson, Cairney, Solomon, Chalobah, James, Diop, Harris
Chelsea, Kepa, Silva, Kovacic, Felix, Chalobah, Mount, Akamai, Koulibaly, Azpilicueta, Havertz, Hall
Subs: Bettinelli, Badiashile, Jorginho, Aubameyang, Ziyech, Gallagher, Forfana, Chukwuemeka, Cucurella
Referee: David Coote