Chelsea win

Goals by Pe­dro and Lof­tus-Cheek se­cure three points against Ranieri’s side

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Do­minic Fi­field at Stam­ford Bridge

Chelsea will con­sider this nor­mal ser­vice re­sumed af­ter last week­end’s hum­bling across the cap­i­tal at Spurs, al­though Mau­r­izio Sarri never gave the im­pres­sion he was a sat­is­fied man as he prowled his tech­ni­cal area.

This was a grind of a derby against Ful­ham, a team at­tempt­ing to in­sti­gate some much-needed de­fen­sive surety, which was only prop­erly claimed late on when Ruben Lof­tus-Cheek’s cameo yielded a fine sec­ond goal.

There had been anx­ious mo­ments to en­dure up to then, with Chelsea show­ing the strain as their lo­cal ri­vals threat­ened, al­beit fit­fully, to force par­ity. Clau­dio Ranieri, while clearly far from con­tent with the first de­feat of his stint in charge, might ac­tu­ally pluck more pos­i­tives than his com­pa­triot. At least Ful­ham have demon­strated a mea­sure of re­silience. Chelsea, their sights set higher, pre­vailed, but their lack of flu­ency is a con­cern.

Slack start

At least Sarri could not com­plain about a slack start. Ful­ham had been punc­tured within the first four min­utes, the first time Chelsea had scored in the first 20 min­utes of a Premier League match since mid-Au­gust.

The lead owed much to the vis­i­tors’ gen­eros­ity, Jean Michael Seri strug­gling to con­trol an awk­ward pass from Cyrus Christie, with N’Golo Kanté nip­ping in to claim pos­ses­sion. The French­man scut­tled for­ward be­fore lib­er­at­ing Pe­dro into the penalty area at his side, the Spaniard turn­ing inside Al­fie Maw­son to fin­ish with ease.

That was Kanté’s sec­ond as­sist

12 The num­ber of goals Chelsea have scored in the fi­nal 15 min­utes of games in the Premier League this season, more than any other side

in 14 league games this term, as many as he had con­trib­uted in his first two years at the club. There were sprayed cross-field passes out to Eden Haz­ard on the wing, and all his cus­tom­ary busy en­ergy as he drifted inside to dis­rupt the vis­i­tors’ ap­proach, though free­ing up this team’s for­ward thinkers was no easy task.

Ful­ham, that early bout of slop­pi­ness aside, demon­strated de­fen­sive im­prove­ment so early in Ranieri’s ten­ure. They did not press Chelsea, but opted in­stead to clog up the hosts’ ap­proach-play by flood­ing back in de­fence.

As a re­sult Haz­ard and Pe­dro, the liveli­est of the home side’s front-line, would col­lect, look up and blanch at the sight of massed ranks of white shirts.

De­liv­ery

Mar­cos Alonso’s de­liv­ery was er­ratic and Olivier Giroud, with four goals in his pre­vi­ous three club ap­pear­ances, frus­trated and iso­lated. The French­man’s only real glimpse of goal came af­ter a ma­raud­ing charge up-field by César Azpilicueta but Ser­gio Rico re­acted smartly to save.

When Haz­ard spat away a low shot late on, with Rico paw­ing back into play, the re­cently in­tro­duced sub­sti­tute Mo­rata could only sky the re­bound over an open goal, much to Sarri’s ex­as­per­a­tion. His re­lief would only come eight min­utes from time.

In truth it was the other Span­ish goal­keeper on show, Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga, who had ac­tu­ally felt the busier, though he was per­haps grate­ful that Ful­ham’s best op­por­tu­ni­ties were for­ever fall­ing to Calum Cham­bers. He forced Kepa to block a header, then push away a shot fizzed in first time from the edge of the penalty area.

Ranieri’s team be­came more fran­tic as time drifted away, al­low­ing Chelsea’s sub­sti­tutes the chance to make an im­pact. Lof­tus-Cheek duly com­bined slickly with Haz­ard and Pe­dro just out­side Ful­ham’s penalty area. The Bel­gian’s burst into the box at­tracted pan­icked de­fend­ers, his slipped pass to the right prod­ding Lof­tus-Cheek into space va­cated by Maxime Le Marc­hand. The Eng­land mid­fielder’s fin­ish was em­phatic, a fifth goal in six club games plun­dered, and Chelsea’s vic­tory was com­plete.

– Guardian

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