Blues see off neighbours Fulham 2-0 and inject hope into their fans that their season has turned
By Paul Lagan at Craven Cottage
Fulham 0 v Chelsea 2
Chelsea rise to the dizzy height [for them] of 11th in the Premier League after an impressive counter-attacking performance that yielded a 2-0 win against noisy neighbours Fulham at Craven Cottage tonight.
Strikes from Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja saw off the out-of-sorts Whites.
The match was won with the Blues taking command of the midfield where skipper Conor Gallagher had his best performance in a Blue shirt – his energy, running and desire to command the pitch rubbed off on Cole Palmer and Enzo, who kept Fulham in two minds as to attack or defend.
This, added to a lack of tempo from the home side, allowed Chelsea to sit back and then attack using the pace of Palmer and Mudryk.
It will take time for the Chelsea fans to get to know this side.
The fact that their chants throughout the night consisted of references to old timers Dennis Wise, Frank Lampard and former owner Roman Abramovich suggests they haven't quite taken with this outfit yet.
Fulham feel as though they are playing with the handbrake half on – the introduction of Carlos Vinicius and Alex Iwobi gave the fans something to cheer and hope for a comeback.
But it just didn't work out this time.
Broja had a glorious chance to put the visitors 1-0 up in two minutes, but after collecting the ball on the left, he edged into the centre of the Fulham penalty area, but skied his effort high and wide of goal.
Having been the object of a few jeers for his wayward passing and finishing, Mudryk, silenced the teasing home fans on 18 minutes when he latched onto a Levi Colwill ball on the left, chested it down and slide it under Bernd Leno from just inside the penalty area.
A minute and a half later terrible play by skipper Tim Ream saw the ball out from the back intercepted by Palmer. The wide man inched the ball to Broja who took advantage of Ream trying to win it back and the Albanian striker punched the back of the net to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
Fulham responded well with an increase in possession without making too much of a dent in the Chelsea rearguard and the Whites became susceptible to the quick counter-attack.
A header by Raul Jimenez with five minutes left on the clock, from a corner was powerful enough, but he was unable to direct it towards goal and is sailed wide for a goal kick.
Chelsea took off Mudryk with Ian Maatsen replacing the Ukrainian at half-time.
Fulham were unchanged.
The first chance, like in the first half fell early to Broja. This time a glancing header went over the Fulham crossbar.
Jimenez and Harry Wilson were soon replaced by Vinicius and Iwobi.
But it was the Blues who could have increased their lead on 55 minutes, but Palmer's edge of area left-footer went straight to Leno.
But Fulham got a burst of energy and tempo from the arrival of their two substitutes which flowed into the fans.
But still the Blues had the better of the chances, Maatsen rattled the woodwork, while the follow-up by Enzo was well saved by Leno.
Sadly for Broja his night ending in that attack and he looked a forlorn figure who clearly sustained an in injury.
He had only just come back from a 10-month knee absence.
Raheem Sterling replaced him.
Fulham brought on Tom Cairney for Harrison Reed at the same time - 66 minutes.
A weak head by Vinicius was gleefully snaffled by Robert Sanchez.
Andreas Pereira night ended on 75 minutes when Sasa Lukic replaced him.
Sanchez was on the spot to thwart Lukic's first touch, hacking away the close-range effort.
This signalled a replacement of the impressive Palmer for Lesley Ugochukwu on 77 minutes.
The five minutes of added time brought no action to speak of and the home fans wandered off in to the west London night wondering about where their season is heading.
For Chelsea there is a glimmer that their season is turning for the better but they need to take full points away to Burnley on Saturday to confirm it.
Teams: Fulham, Leno, Reed, Jimenez, Wilson, Ream, Pereira, Willian, Castagne, Palhinha, Diop, Robinson
Subs: Rodak, Bassey, Cairney, Ballo-Toure, De Cordova-Reid, Muniz, Iwobi, Lukic, Vinicius
Chelsea: Sanchez, Disasi, Cucurella, Silva, Fernandez, Mudryk, Broja, Palmer, Gallagher, Caicedo, Colwill
Subs: Petrovic, Sterling, Madueke, Ugochukwu, Maatsen, Washington, Gilchrist, Brooking, Matos
Referee: Tim Robinson