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Chelsea 2, Fulham 0

It could have been worse

Chelsea FC v Fulham FC - Premier League Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

It could have been a much worse performance from Fulham against their biggest Premier League rivals. But on a day where they struggled to create much in attack, Fulham couldn’t claim any points against a Chelsea side that admittedly looked out of sorts on the whole.

You wouldn’t have thought that to be the major narrative when N’Golo Kante stole the ball away against Jean Michael Seri and, just like against Manchester City two months ago, punished the latter greatly with a quick pass to Pedro who easily went past Alfie Mawson to score on the bottom right hand corner. That goal came just four minutes in and Fulham looked like they were in a world of trouble.

However, that didn’t turn out to be the case as Fulham gradually got themselves back into the game. They never held onto the ball that much within the first half but were able to limit Chelsea from scoring again with another compact performance. Their defense went onto limit the Blues to just seven shots and if you were to take away Pedro’s goal, their expected goal conversion rate was just 5.8%. That being said, Fulham couldn’t do much at all when they had the ball in possession.

It bluntly says something when Calum Chambers was the best attacking player on the day. Manager Claudio Ranieri, in his return to Stamford Bridge after managing the opposition between 2000 and 2005, tried his best to change things up after halftime by taking off Stefan Johansen and Ryan Sessegnon for Floyd Ayite and Aboubakar Kamara, respectively. Still, it was basically the same results on the pitch and the visitors were deserved being shut out for the fourth time in five top flight fixtures.

In the end, Fulham could only muster 0.29 expected goals in 9 shots. Aleksander Mitrovic was only able to muster one shot all game and no Cottager was able to muster an xG buildup over 0.05. In the meantime, it took until Chelsea substituted Olivier Giroud for Alvaro Morata and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to come on for Mateo Kovacic for the game to spring to life. Morata missed a complete and utter sitter that really should’ve put the Blues comfortably in front only for the ball to go sky high over the bar and a diving Sergio Rico.

On the whole, the Fulham goalkeeper put in another yeoman’s work and was able to turn Chelsea’s 2.17 expected goals into something a tad more miniscule. What made Chelsea put the cherry on top of this game was a beautiful combination between Pedro and Eden Hazard eventually went to a streaking Loftus-Cheek that only needed to put the ball past Rico. He went onto do that with ease as the budding England International has made sure to take full advantage of his few Chelsea appearances.

So in the end, the haves beat the have nots. But this game was without the favorites looking tense and for Fulham’s defense to rise to the occasion on the whole. The traveling supporters were immense and made their voices heard on television screens around the world. Chelsea will take the three points, but they knew they had to win ugly in order to get the job done. Against the best in England, that’s at minimum all Fulham can ask for. If anything else, the hope would be for this performance to kickstart a victory when Leicester City greet their former boss to Craven Cottage on Wednesday. Fulham will have to dust themselves off fast as another seven fixtures are coming up within the next 30 days. Here’s to better times ahead.