Fulham 1 Chelsea 3 match report: Andre Schürrle stars as Chelsea pull four points clear
German’s rapid hat-trick extends the Blues’ lead at the top of the Premier League to four points
The scoreline may suggest otherwise, but this was another afternoon when Chelsea ground their way to three points, stirring neither the blood nor the soul. A 16-minute hat-trick by Andre Schurrle was enough to stretch their Premier League lead to four points courtesy of Arsenal losing in the Potteries, but there remains a sense that Jose Mourinho's Chelsea Mark II, like the first edition, are efficient rather than thrilling. Facing the league's bottom club it was not until first-half injury-time they even had a shot on target.
Any team with Eden Hazard and Oscar in it will always produce watchable moments, and it was the Belgian who provided what sparkle there was with another bewitching performance. He laid on two of Schurrle's goals and Fernando Torres should have converted a spectacular rabona (crossing with the 'wrong' leg).
In mitigation Fulham could point to the absence of Brede Hangeland who was forced off early on after clashing heads with Kieran Richardson. His replacement, the promising Dan Burn ,was at fault for all three goals. Hangeland went to hospital and Fulham were awaiting news on him after the match. They could also draw some hope from their general competency, which is an improvement on most of their season, but they will need inspiration as well as perspiration to earn the wins required to survive. Creating that has always been harder than instilling work-rate.
One of Mourinho's gifts is making creative players work hard. Another is drawing attention from poor performances and onto himself. He did this again revealing he had not said a word at half-time, but instead absented the dressing room leaving his team to stew. He was, he said, so disappointed with the first half ten minutes would have been insufficent to make all his points.
“The start was really bad for us, a really bad first half,” he said. “Fulham had big motivation because they need the points to stay in the Premier League but we spoke of this before, we cannot let them have more motivation than us. In the first half that was not the case. But in the second half my team changed the intensity of their game. It was a game of two halves, the second half we were brilliant.”
Chelsea have had a demanding week but Mourinho's pre-match complaints about this fixture's scheduling on Saturday afternoon having played in Istanbul on Wednesday night cuts no ice. He could have freshened his team up with players of the quality of Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Samuel Eto'o, John Obi Mikel and Mohamed Salah. Instead he made just two changes, Nemanja Matic and Oscar replacing Frank Lampard and Willian. Magath made more a trio, the most perplexing of which was the replacement of Lewis Holtby with Clint Dempsey who has been a shadow of his former self since returning to Fulham on loan from Seattle.
For all the talk of Fulham being tough opposition for Chelsea the home side had only won one of the previous 35 derbies. They may have brought off a shock had they scored first, and they did have chances to do that. In the second minute Pajtim Kasami beat Branislav Ivanovic on the left but Dempsey jumped just too early and the cross skimmed off his head, and over. In the 21 minute Kasami won possession, Kieran Richardson broke, but after his cross found Dempsey the American was unable to get his shot off. Shortly before the interval a free-kick routine that suggested training has not just been about lapping the pitch ended with
Kasami drilling a low shot, but it was a straightforward save for Petr Cech. A minute before the break, came the best chance, Dejagah's cross reaching an unmarked Sidwell at the far post. The midfielder has been in scoring form this season, but he blazed wide.
Chelsea had been desperately poor. One kick from Cech ran all the way through to Martin Steklenburg, another punt forward, from Ivanovic deep inside his own half, did the same. So when, at one point, Mourinho lambasted Torres the striker could justifiably have asked what he was supposed to do with a series of long balls given he was competing with the giant Burn. Torres should, though have done better when Steklenburg delayed a clearance so long Torres blocked it, then won the loose ball, but shot wide.
In injury-time Chelsea stirred and Steklenburg made a sharp save from Torres' volley. They returned from the break sharper, smarter, steelier. Six minutes into the period Shurrle ran behind Burn onto Hazard's long pass and coolly converted. After Torres failed to do Hazard's rabona justice the German skipped off Burn again, this time onto a short Hazard pass. Two-nil. Burn, his mind doubtless in turmoil, was then beaten by Torres in the air, the striker also feeding Schurrle for his third (Richardson dozing this time). He became the third German after Fredi Bobic (Bolton) and Jurgen Klinsmann (Tottenham), to score a Premier League treble.
Fulham kept battling and John Heitinga tapped in after Cech misjudged a corner. The 'keeper then did well to hold a deflected shot from Giorgos Karagounis. Fulham subsequently twice got in good positions on the right, but Sascha Reither over-hit his cross, then Ashkan Dejagah failed to deliver the ball at all. It was that sort of match. Chelsea though, had Hazard, and Schurrle.
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Steklenburg; Reither, Heitinga, Hangeland (Burn, 15), Richardson; Dejagah, Parker (Karagounis, 80), Sidwell, Kasami (Holtby, 62); Dempsey; Bent.
Substitutes: Stockdale, Riise, Kvist, Rodallega.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Oscar (Mikel, 78), Hazard, Schurrle (Luiz, 86); Torres (Ba, 82).
Substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Willian, Lampard.
Referee: M Clattenburg
Man of the match: Hazard
Match rating: 5
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