Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both fired in their fifth goals of the season to separate the sides in this high-noon London SW6 derby.
The opening strike came early in the game, after which Chelsea initially had all the chances. Olivier Giroud was denied on more than one occasion by the Fulham goalkeeper. The visitors’ attacking improved after half-time and we needed some sharp saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga to stay ahead.
Our neighbours were doing well to stifle our creativity at that stage, and our set-piece taking was not good, but then the opportunities came late on in the game, with Eden Hazard much involved. The best chances fell to two substitutes and although Alvaro Morata could not take his, Loftus-Cheek found the back of the net to make it two wins in four days, the reaction Maurizio Sarri called for in the wake of the first Premier League defeat of the season the previous weekend.
For his team selection today, Sarri made two changes from the side defeated at Tottenham. Giroud was the centre-forward selected, with Pedro preferred to Willian to the right of him.
Those two plus Kepa were the only three retained from the midweek win in the Europa League. Ross Barkley has an ankle problem from that game so was rested to ready him for next week.
It would have been no surprise had Claudio Ranieri, despite the ‘Tinkerman’ reputation he gained in his Chelsea days, named an unchanged side from his first game in charge of Fulham, that result against Southampton being their first victory in 10 league outings. However former Blue Andre Schurrle felt a twinge in training yesterday so missed a return to Stamford Bridge as a precaution.
The coin toss before kick-off was carried out by Cesar Azpilicueta for the Blues, both captains sporting rainbow armbands in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign to which today’s game was dedicated.
Pedro justified his selection with the opening strike less than four minutes after the midday kick-off, and it was a goal crafted by N’Golo Kante before being finished superbly. Jean Michael Seri was the Fulham midfield dispossessed by our World Cup winner, who then advanced before feeding Pedro inside the penalty area. The Spaniard tricked his way inside Alfie Mawson and planted the ball into the far bottom corner with a firm swipe of his left boot. It is the 1000th goal scored at home by Chelsea in the Premier League.
Sarri had been unhappy with the way his team hadsbeen starting games, but there was no such problem today.
Fifteen minutes in, Fulham had their only shot on-target in the first half but Calum Chambers from the edge of the area fired it straight at Kepa.
The Blues were moving the ball very sharply around in midfield. Kante, especially outstanding in the early stages, was reacting to the Spurs set-back in the way his manager will have been hoping.
Sergio Rico in the Fulham goal saved from Giroud, and David Luiz struck the wall with a free-kick which had been won by strong hold-up play by Eden Hazard, who had overcome his ankle problem to play this afternoon.
With just under 10 minutes to go to the break, Cyrus Christie gifted the ball to Giroud who was denied at the near post by the keeper when he went for the return after play had been spread wide by Mateo Kovacic and Hazard. Then seven minutes later and from a similar spot, the outcome was the same for Giroud, this time after an Azpilicueta burst through two players into the box had created the half-chance.
So the whistle went for the interval with just the single-goal advantage. After the storming way in which the Blues had begun this derby, there must have been a degree of relief in the Cottagers dressing room that they had reached the halfway point still well in the contest.
As in the first half, Pedro had the first chance to score in the second but this time Rico was able to save a shot that was not kept so low.
Then on 54 minutes, the visitors came their closest to scoring. Firstly it needed a sliding intervention at the near post by Rudiger to cut out a dangerous-looking cross, and from the resulting corner Kepa showed great reactions to keep out Chambers’ header.
The same Fulham defender was denied again by the Chelsea keeper 10 minutes later. The danger this time had started when half-time substitute Aboubakar Kamara got the better of Marcos Alonso out wide.
A couple of minutes after he had replaced Giroud, Morata could have made the points all but safe after the Fulham keeper had done well to keep out Hazard’s deflected drive, but as the rebound dropped his way, the substitute shot over from close range with his left foot.
Instead the safety of the two-goal cushion was achieved by another of the second-half introductions, Loftus-Cheek smashing in Hazard’s squared pass in the 82nd minute, with a first-time strike from 15 yards out.
Three points secured with another three on offer in just three days’ time when we visit Wolves.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso (Zappacosta 78), Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 67); Pedro, Giroud (Morata 70), Hazard.
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Fabregas, Willian.
Scorers Pedro 4, Loftus-Cheek 82.
Booked Azpilicueta 69, Morata 83
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Sergio Rico; Christie, Odoi, Mawson, Le Marchand; Chambers, Seri; Sessegnon (Kamara h-t), Cairney (c) (Kebano 75), Johansen; Mitrovic.
Unused subs Bettinelli, Ream, Bryan, Cisse, Ayite.
Booked Odoi 54
Referee Craig Pawson