John Obi Mikel’s first ever Premier League goal helped Chelsea stop the rot of three successive losses as they beat Fulham 2-0 in a West London derby at Stamford Bridge.
Confidence was low around the stadium and it showed as Fulham had the better chances in the first half, but Oscar’s 52nd minute goal turned the tide for the Blues.
Fulham never recovered and Mikel’s first ever league goal for Chelsea after 185 games sealed a win that sends Jose Mourinho’s side top of the table.
After Premier League losses to Manchester United and Everton and a shock defeat to FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League, it was imperative that the Blues got back to winning ways here but they started the game full of nerves. After just five minutes, two former Chelsea players worked together to give Fulham a fantastic chance to take the lead.
Damien Duff won two Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge and received a warm reception from the home fans but his great cross from the right should have been headed in by Steve Sidwell. The English midfielder beat John Terry in the air but sent the ball crashing over from six yards out to the disappointment of Martin Jol.
It was the Cottagers who looked more likely to score in the first half, but they found that Petr Cech was in a determined mood not to concede. Pajtim Kasami’s good pass unlocked the Chelsea defence and it was accomplished finisher Darren Bent who raced onto it, but Chelsea’s Czech goalkeeper made a good low save to keep out the powerful strike.
The Fulham goalkeeper, David Stockdale, was also called into action late on in the first half as he made a good save to keep the scores level at the interval. Eden Hazard’s pull-back was behind Samuel Eto’o but Branislav Ivanovic was there to drill a low shot at goal that Stockdale did well to tip around the post.
It was a game that felt like Chelsea needed to score first and they managed to do that seven minutes after the break. Andre Schurrle’s first shot was fumbled by Stockdale and after the young goalkeeper made a good save to deny Eto’o on the rebound, Oscar was waiting to rifle in from close range as a wave of relied swept around the stadium.
From that point on, it was plain sailing for Mourinho’s Blues even though luck didn’t seem to be on their side. They should have been awarded a penalty in the 70th minute when Ramires was clumsily tripped by Fernando Amorebieta, but referee Andre Marriner waived away the appeals.
Fernando Torres came off the bench looking to force his way back into the starting eleven, but he was desperately unlucky not to score in the 83rd minute. Frank Lampard’s corner was met by the Spaniard’s header at the near post, but Stockdale made a great diving save to push the ball away from close range.
Unfortunately for Stockdale, Chelsea scored from the resulting corner. Terry rose highest to knock the ball down and it was Mikel of all people who pounced to score an unlikely goal. Mikel had not scored a league goal for Chelsea since joining the club six years ago but opened his account with a lethal volley from inside the six yard box.
Despite the doom and gloom before kick-off, the win will make Chelsea fans realise that things aren’t so bad after all as their team reclaimed their place at the top of the Premier League.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)