First half goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho propelled Chelsea to a 1-2 victory over West London rivals Fulham at the Craven Cottage on Sunday.
Chelsea moved to within two points of the fourth spot in the 2018-19 Premier League standings, when they defeated local rivals Fulham 1-2 in matchweek 29 this past weekend.
The Blues, coming into the game on the back of another London derby win against Tottenham, needed to grab all three points to keep up pace with Arsenal and Manchester United in the race for the top four. And they started on the right note, with Gonzalo Higuain putting them in front just 20 minutes in.
Chelsea were pegged back soon after, however, with Arsenal loanee Calum Chambers firing home from close range to make it 1-1. But the parity did not last for long, as minutes later, Jorginho unleashed a spectacular effort from the edge of the box to put Chelsea back in the lead.
Fulham came with renewed vigour post the half-time break and pushed the visitors hard in chase of an equalizer. Chelsea managed to hold off the Cottagers and breathed a huge sigh of relief late on, when Ryan Sessegnon’s goal in injury time was rightly ruled out for offside.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 3, 2019
The result meant Chelsea are now two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United and just one point off of Arsenal in the fifth place, with a game in hand over both their rivals. And here’s how Maurizio Sarri’s men fared in their second derby of the week;
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 8/10
Back into the starting lineup after being dropped for the Tottenham match, the Spaniard had a heart-in-mouth moment early in the game, when he spilled the ball in the goal-mouth, but Ryan Babel could not capitalize. Pulled off brilliant stops to deny Aleksandar Mitrovic on two occasions, while he also made saves to keep Joe Bryan and Tom Cairney out.
Having stirred up a controversy after the Manchester City encounter, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper made sure he was in the headlines once again, but for the right reasons this time out.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
The Chelsea captain was a key outlet down the right-hand side with his incisive forward surges and one such move led to the opening goal, with his brilliant cross turned home by Higuain. Almost managed to recreate the same moment again later in the first half, but the Fulham goalie came in the way. Solid as always at the back.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5/10
The German international did not start off all too well, as he looked leggy and made a few sloppy passes. Grew into the game with time though and was much more solid after the break, making a couple of vital interventions to protect his team’s slender lead. Could do with a rest.
Andreas Christensen: 7/10
Handed a start in place of David Luiz, the Danish centre-half completely justified his selection with a steady, solid and composed performance at the back. Never looked flustered against the physical threat offered by Mitrovic and dealt fairly well with him, apart from the one moment late in the game when the Serb got a shot away.
Emerson Palmieri: 5/10
Returning to the starting XI after being dropped for the Spurs’ game, the left-back failed to match the level of some of his recent displays. Was fairly solid enough against Babel, but struggled when Sessegnon was shifted to his flank, with the teenager causing him a lot of problems. Offered a decent outlet in attack, but was guilty of leaving open spaces behind him.
N’Golo Kante: 7/10
The French midfield dynamo was not quite at his imperious best, but still managed to make a mark on Sunday. Amazing energy levels to run up and down the pitch for the entire game, despite having played every minute of Chelsea’s previous two matches against City and Spurs. Broke up the opposition’s moves and helped launch attacks.
His passing was off the radar a bit at the start, but settled in soon and scored a fine goal a little after the half-hour mark – his first from open play for Chelsea, which would eventually go on to be the winning goal. Played Higuain in with a fine pass, but the Argentine shot over. Defensively not always convincing though and booked for a challenge on Sessegnon.
Ross Barkley: 6/10
Most of the Englishman’s good work on Sunday came while tracking back and helping out his defence, rather than going forward. Was reserved in his use of the ball and preferred to keep it simple in the centre of the park. Fairly solid, but failed to provide the forward thrust from the midfield.
Replacing Pedro in the starting lineup, the Brazilian brought in a lot of energy onto the pitch, as he caused quite a few problems to Joe Bryan, but was not clinical enough when he did get into promising positions. Put in a shift defensively as well, tracking back effectively.
Gonzalo Higuain: 7/10
Placed a header wide when he should have clearly done better, but finished brilliantly to open the scoring. Fired over the bar after being played in by Jorginho when one would expect him to score, while he was denied by Sergio Rico at the near-post. Showed good movement in the first-half, but needed to be more clinical. A quiet second period.
Eden Hazard: 6.5/10
Got the assist for Chelsea’s second goal, with a good run and a neat pull-back for Jorginho. It was his 50th Premier League assist for the Blues – joining Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard in the list of Chelsea players with 50 goals and assists each in the English top-flight. Not as effective as he usually is, however. Looked tired, before being replaced by Pedro.
Eden Hazard has now scored (81) and assisted (50) at least 50 goals in the #PL, becoming just the third player to do so for @ChelseaFC after Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba#FULCHE pic.twitter.com/4viWzHsOKM
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 3, 2019
Mateo Kovacic: 6/10
Replaced Jorginho in the 68th minute. Did the basics well, although he did not look all too secure shielding his defence at times.
Came on for Hazard with 15 minutes left on the clock. Added fresh legs on the field, but did little of note.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: N/A
Thrown on in place of Barkley in the 78th minute. Had a few nice moments when he made powerful surging runs forward.