MATCH REPORT

Short report: Derby delight

The Blues returned to winning ways in the Premier League as an early goal from Pedro, and one nine minutes from time by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, ensured we took the points against Fulham in the local derby.

Pedro set us on our way after just three minutes when he finished brilliantly after being teed up by N'Golo Kante, who had won the ball back inside the Fulham half.

Kepa made a couple of important saves after the break, and the second goal arrived in the closing stages when Loftus-Cheek, who had come on to replace Mateo Kovacic, fired home from inside the penalty area having exchanged passes with Eden Hazard.

With the club supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, Cesar Azpilicueta wore a special rainbow-themed armband for today’s game as a way of showing support for the initiative.

Following the disappointment of last week's first defeat of the campaign, we have now won two consecutive matches in a matter of days, keeping two clean sheets in the process, and we now head to Wolves on Wednesday in good spirits.

Kepa's quality

After making a string of impressive saves at Tottenham last week, Kepa showed his quality once again this afternoon. The Chelsea goalkeeper made a couple of stops in the first half, including one from Cyrus Christie in the first minute of the game, but two saves in the space of nine minutes after the break, both of which were to deny Calum Chambers, really caught the eye.

The first of those came when Chambers rose to meet a corner and powered his header towards goal. It was all about Kepa's reflexes as he got down to it quickly, before the loose ball was hacked away to safety.

Shortly afterwards he was called into action again after Tom Cairney pulled the ball back into the path of Chambers, who was just inside the Blues' penalty area. His first-time strike appeared to be going in, but Kepa dived to his right and expertly clawed the ball away.

At 24, Kepa is still very young, and given the fact this is still only his first season in English football he will continue to learn, but for now he is proving to be a hugely important member of the side.

The right response

It was imperative we responded in the correct manner following the reverse at Tottenham, and with two comfortable wins in the space of a few days, Sarri's side are clearly back on an upward curve.

As well as conceding three goals against Spurs, we gave away far too many chances, and it was important to regain some defensive stability.

The clean sheet against PAOK will have helped, but today's Premier League shut-out is certainly more significant. Kepa's brilliant saves from Chambers aside, Fulham rarely threatened, and the back four can take great heart from the overall display.

Team news

As expected, there were major changes to the side which beat PAOK, with only Kepa, Pedro and Olivier Giroud, who scored a brace against the Greek side, retaining their places. Ross Barkley was rested after picking up a knock in Thursday’s game and Fulham's former Chelsea attacker Andre Schurrle also missed out through injury.
 

Key moments

1: Fulham defender Christie carried the ball forward from deep and with the Chelsea defenders backing off, went for goal, his low drive well saved by Kepa.

3: GOAL, 1-0 to Chelsea – Kante did superbly to rob Jean Michael-Seri inside the Fulham half and after advancing towards goal he found Pedro, who cut inside his marker and finished brilliantly.

15: Kepa was called into action, the Spaniard saving from Chambers after Cairney had switched the ball inside to his team-mate, who was free on the edge of the box.

28: The Blues were awarded a free-kick after Hazard was wrestled to the ground by Denis Odoi, but David Luiz’s effort struck the wall.

36: Kovacic delivered a ball across the face of goal and although Giroud was there to meet it at the near post, the Frenchman was denied by Sergio Rico.

42: A lovely passing move down the right ended with Azpilicueta crossing for Giroud, but once again Rico denied the striker.


 

53: Fulham forced a corner and from the resulting delivery, Kepa did superbly to save a powerful point-blank header from Chambers.

64: The visitors threatened again and just like the earlier attempt, Kepa produced another fine save to thwart Chambers, whose right-footed strike was heading into the top corner.

66: Sarri made his first change of the afternoon as Loftus-Cheek replaced Kovacic.

69: Alvaro Morata, a scorer against PAOK on Thursday, came on for Giroud.

72: The Blues almost extended our advantage but after Hazard's deflected strike was tipped away by Rico, Morata blasted the rebound over the bar.

78: Sarri made his third and final change as Davide Zappacosta came on for Marcos Alonso.

81: GOAL, 2-0 to Chelsea - Loftus-Cheek doubled our lead with a superb goal, the substitute finishing off a fine passing move which also involved Hazard and Pedro.

What next?

The fixtures continue to come thick and fast now, Wolverhampton Wanderers up next at Molineux on Wednesday in the Premier League.
 

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