Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday catapulted the Blues from eighth to first in the Premier League table and left their West London neighbours in the relegation zone after five rounds.
It looked as though the hosts would once again labour to create openings at home—just as they had on Wednesday against Basel—but Oscar’s opener in the 52nd minute gave them the lead they deserved, and with six minutes remaining in normal time John Obi Mikel added a measure of insurance from Chelsea’s 12th corner of the encounter.
185 - No outfield player has made more appearances in the @premierleague before scoring their first goal than John Obi Mikel. Wait.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 21, 2013
The contest began perhaps predictably—Chelsea dictating play but lacking imagination and Fulham looking to hit them on the break. Despite enjoying more than two-thirds possession, the Stamford Bridge outfit quite nearly went behind after just 11 minutes when Pajtim Kasami sprung Darren Bent, only for the striker to have his shot stopped well by the onrushing Petr Cech.
That passage of play seemed to theme the opening period, as Chelsea continued to be thwarted in their attacking efforts while Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell, heroic in the centre of the Fulham midfield, did their best to block shots and turn play in the other direction whenever possible.
But it was a re-energized Chelsea that came out after the break, and only seven minutes had ticked off the clock when Oscar beat David Stockdale after the Fulham keeper had parried Samuel Eto’o’s layoff into his path after initially botching Andre Schurrle’s shot from a tight angle.
From there it was rather more comfortable for the Blues, who by the middle of the second half had outrun and out-passed their opponents to the point where more than one or two players in a white shirt had their hands on their hips trying to catch their breath.
And if there was any doubt as to the outcome it was snuffed out in the 84th minute, when Mikel, turning his body and finishing with exceptional technique, connected with a John Terry ball following a corner to provide his side a measure of insurance.
Key Player Grades
It’s been a topsy-turvy start to the season for Chelsea, but the Brazilian playmaker has established himself as a player to count on for manager Jose Mourinho. On Saturday the 22-year-old—again operating in the No. 10 role but drifting often—scored what proved to be the winner, touched the ball 72 times and contributed an astonishing seven defensive actions. (Statistics courtesy WhoScored.com.)
John Obi Mikel: A-
The suddenly playmaking Mikel touched the ball 99 times on Saturday and completed an impressive 92 per cent of his passes. He also scored his first Premier League goal when his superbly taken effort off a corner provided Chelsea a 2-0 lead with six minutes plus stoppages to play. It was Mikel showing the same form he exuded at the Africa Cup of Nations last February, and Chelsea will no doubt be expecting more of the same from the Nigerian.
Scott Parker: A-
Parker put in a yeoman’s effort on Saturday, breaking up play and springing teammates on the counter attack. But for his 62 touches and assortment of tackles and blocked shots it could have been a rather more lopsided scoreline at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea will kick off their league cup campaign away to Swindon on Tuesday and will visit Tottenham Hotspur a week from today. Fulham have Everton at home in the cup on Tuesday and will host Cardiff on Sept. 28.