Chelsea could potentially improve their position in the Premier League, which is something that Mauricio Pochettino is eager to emphasize. This victory marks their third consecutive win in the league, a response to their defeat against Middlesbrough in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals and the subsequent criticism they faced.
However, Pochettino must be aware that his team still appears inexperienced and somewhat vulnerable, lacking unity and effectiveness in crucial areas. Even in their recent victories, they are barely scraping by, causing their fans to endure uncertainty and raise numerous concerns. This was evident once again in their latest match, where Chelsea relied on Cole Palmer, the standout player in an inconsistent season, and his skill from the penalty spot.
Palmer was the only standout player in a dull game that resulted in Fulham’s fifth consecutive loss in away league matches. His impressive abilities, precise ball handling, and keen passing were a joy to watch. He seized the chance presented to him when Raheem Sterling was fouled by Issa Diop right before halftime and confidently scored his fifth successful penalty since joining from Manchester City last summer. With nine goals and seven assists for his new team, Palmer has proven to be a valuable asset.
Fulham had numerous instances to reference their subpar performance on away matches. Out of all the teams in the league, only two have a worse record when playing away. Additionally, they have not achieved a victory at this location since 1979 and have not scored a goal here since 2011.
Marco Silva was furious the game was not shaped differently by a red card on 38 minutes for the Chelsea right-back, Malo Gusto, who stretched into a tackle on Willian and got nowhere near the ball.
Gusto forcefully hit his cleats against the ex-Chelsea player’s shin. The referee, Anthony Taylor, gave a yellow card, but it seemed like a situation where the video assistant referee should have been consulted for a harsher penalty. However, Taylor’s ruling was not questioned. Gusto, who had previously been sent off for a similar incident against Aston Villa in September, escaped punishment this time. Overall, Fulham did not make enough effort to affect the things they could influence.
At the beginning, the home seats were quiet, with most of the noise coming from the away supporters. This seemed to reflect the overall confusion and surprise with this Chelsea team. Pochettino appeared agitated until the penalty, visibly annoyed as he gestured to his assistants and even yelling in anger at one point.
Chelsea were not worthy of being in the lead at halftime, but they managed to do so thanks to Palmer’s well-executed pass that led to Sterling’s goal. Diop’s poor tackle on Sterling resulted in a penalty, which Palmer confidently converted, leading to a celebratory shiver.
Chelsea pressed aggressively in the first half, but their attacks lacked potency. Fulham supporters cheered as their team made strong challenges, while Chelsea’s gameplay was slow and uneventful, relying too heavily on passing the ball back and forth rather than moving forward.
Enzo Fernández attempted an early shot that was blocked, while Conor Gallagher’s attempt went high after a swift pass from Palmer. Chelsea’s sole clear opportunity before the penalty was when Fernández crossed the ball and Armando Broja missed the header.
Fulham lacked aggression in their attacking play, appearing too timid. This was evident when Axel Disasi ignored a cross in the 44th minute, causing a moment of chaos in the Chelsea goal area. However, no Fulham player was there to take advantage of the situation. Djordjie Petrovic easily saved a shot from Andreas Pereira, while Harry Wilson made a more impressive save at the near post from a threatening Antonee Robinson cross.
The game was greatly influenced by the Carabao Cup, with Chelsea suffering from Middlesbrough’s strong performance. However, Fulham is feeling more optimistic after their recent game. The possibility of a west London derby cup final is still a possibility.
Aside from Palmer, Chelsea struggled in the second half. Their fans were disappointed when Broja took too many touches or hesitated, and they needed a more direct approach.
Sterling hit the post at the 53rd minute, but he appeared to be offside. Levi Colwill then lifted the ball high, wasting the opportunity. Could Fulham create a last-minute surprise? The most promising chance came in the 73rd minute when Raúl Jiménez received a low cross from Pereira and Fernández slipped, but he shot too close to Petrovic. Chelsea became anxious towards the end as Fulham pushed forward with more players, and Willian also missed a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
Chelsea came closest to scoring, with Gallagher hitting the outside of the post using his right foot and substitute Noni Madueke challenging Bernd Leno.
The Chelsea fans erupted in cheers as Ben Chilwell made his first appearance in a football match since late September, coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute. The predominant feeling among them was one of relief.