Chelsea stun Fulham with quickfire double
LONDON - Goal-shy Chelsea finally found their cutting edge on Monday, striking twice in 82 seconds to earn a morale-boosting 2-0 win against Fulham as Mykhailo Mudryk finally got off the mark.
Mauricio Pochettino's injury-ravaged team travelled to the home of their near-neighbours just two points above the relegation zone and with only five goals to their name.
Wasted early opportunities hinted at familiar failings but Ukrainian winger Mudryk scored his first goal in a Chelsea shirt in the 18th minute and Armando Broja doubled the lead in the blink of an eye.
The win lifts Chelsea to mid-table and eases the pressure on beleaguered new manager Pochettino, whose team had failed to score in their previous three Premier League games.
The former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss had pleaded for ruthlessness in front of goal and his nerves were settled by his team's quickfire first-half double.
"It's important for us to build our confidence and trust in ourselves," Pochettino told Sky Sports.
"The performance was very good, I'm so happy for the players and in the end we got what we deserved."
Chelsea started brightly at Craven Cottage but failed to take advantage.
Albania forward Broja, making his first start since November 2022, blazed over from an offside position shortly after kick-off and the lively Mudryk also wasted a chance.
But the visitors got their reward in the 18th minute when a long ball from the back found Levi Colwill on the left.
Colwill passed to Mudryk, who controlled the ball on his chest before producing a composed finish for his first goal for the club since his big-money move from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.
Chelsea doubled their lead when Broja capitalised on a defensive mistake from Fulham centre-half Tim Ream, who gifted the ball to new signing Cole Palmer.
The ex-Manchester City man played the ball forward only for Ream to kick it against Broja and watch in horror as it rebounded into the net.
Chelsea, playing with zest, could have extended their lead further but Enzo Fernandez's strike flew narrowly wide.
The home side failed to muster a single shot on target in the first half, though Raul Jimenez went close with a header from Andreas Pereira's outswinging corner as half-time approached.
Mudryk did not appear for the second half, replaced by defender Ian Maatsen.
Fulham looked more threatening after the break and manager Marco Silva threw on forwards Alex Iwobi and Carlos Vinicius within the first 10 minutes.
Vinicius headed over before a heart-in-mouth moment for Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, who was able to reclaim the ball after his goal kick was intercepted by Pereira.
Chelsea went agonisingly close to extending their lead when Maatsen thundered a strike against the left upright, with Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno saving smartly from Fernandez's follow-up.
Fulham had a wonderful chance to pull a goal back when Tom Cairney found fellow substitute Sasa Lukic in the six-yard box but he could only blast straight at Sanchez.
Chelsea held on relatively comfortably to climb to 11th place, above Fulham on goal difference. - AFP