Hoping to bounce back from their 4-0 FA Cup defeat against Manchester City, Chelsea traveled to Fulham for their Premier League commitment on Thursday night (12 January).
Despite their best efforts, the Pensioners failed to turn their fortunes around, succumbing to another morale-dampening defeat.
Goals from Willian and Carlos Vinicius on their side of a Kalidou Koulibaly strike propelled Fulham to a 2-1 victory at Craven Cottage, marking their first defeat over the Blues in 16 years. The result extended Chelsea’s winless run in the Premier League to three games (two losses and a draw), keeping them in 10th place in the league standings.
Playing in front of their fans, Fulham enjoyed a feisty start, creating their first goalscoring opportunity after eight minutes of play. Vinicius got on the ball in the attacking third of the pitch, set himself up, and went for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal. His effort was low and true but drifted narrowly wide of the mark.In the 25th minute, Chelsea’s former player, Willian, got on the scoresheet for Fulham. The Brazilian stepped inside the box and went for goal, with his strike taking a deflection off Trevoh Chalobah on its way into the bottom-right corner. Three minutes later, Premier League debutant Joao Felix tried his luck from 15 yards out but ended up directing his effort straight at Fulham keeper Bernd Leno.
Felix tried his luck once again in the 40th minute, going for goal with a low strike. Leno made an urgent dive to keep Fulham ahead in the west London derby.
Chelsea improved markedly in the opening exchanges of the second half, scoring the goal they were gunning for. Mason Mount swung in a free kick inside the Fulham box. The ball found its way to Koulibaly, allowing him to tap home from six yards out. The Blues’ joy, however, was shortlived, as Felix saw a straight red for a reckless two-footed lunge on Kenny Tete. Down to 10 men, the Blues lost all the momentum they had enjoyed early in the second half.
Fulham made their extra man count in the 73rd minute, with Vinicius superbly heading in Andreas Pereira’s teasing delivery. Chelsea created their last chance of the match in the second minute of injury time. Kai Havertz put his foot through the ball, aiming to find the far-bottom corner. Leno made a sharp save to deny his countryman. It was another disappointing night for Graham Potter, and below are the five players who let him down at Craven Cottage:
#5 Mateo Kovacic
One of the most experienced players on the team, Mateo Kovacic, failed to lead the midfield by example on Thursday. He knocked the ball around just fine but never looked like making things happen. He struggled in one-on-one battles, lost possession cheaply at times, and committed a couple of needless fouls, hurting the flow of the game.
The Croatia international lost possession 15 times, lost four of seven ground duels, and misplaced two attempted long balls. The midfielder, who completed 40 passes (80% accuracy) was hooked for Conor Gallagher in the 79th minute.
#4 Trevoh Chalobah
Centre-back Trevoh Chalobah could have done precious little about the deflection that led to Willian’s goal, as he was well within his rights to try to block that shot. It was his lack of confidence that hurt the Londoners. He lacked conviction in clearances, was weak in the duels, and completely lost Vinicius for his 73rd-minute header.
On Premier League matchday 18, Chalobah lost five of seven duels, lost possession thrice, and committed an error that led to a shot. He also committed three fouls, one of which got him booked in the 36th minute (a challenge on Joao Palhinha).
#3 Kepa Arrizabalaga
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga could not have done much to prevent Willian’s strike from going in, but he should have done a lot better to keep Vinicius out. The former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper got caught in two minds for Vinicius’ 73rd-minute header. Had he either shown the conviction to collect Pereira’s cross or tried to defend his goal, the outcome could have been different.
Kepa only made one save on the night against Fulham and misplaced two attempted long balls.
#2 Mason Mount
Mason Mount is one of the most talented players at Potter’s disposal, capable of dominating the game from start to finish. Unfortunately, the trademark relentless enthusiasm and creativity were missing from Mount’s game on Thursday night. He did produce a moment of magic in the 47th minute to assist Koulibaly’s goal, but that was pretty much all he managed to come up with against Fulham.
At Craven Cottage, Mount misplaced eight of nine attempted crosses, lost four of seven duels, lost possession 16 times, and picked up a yellow card for his needless foul on Tom Cairney.
#1 Joao Felix
Signed on loan from Atletico Madrid on 11 January, Joao Felix played his first match for the Stamford Bridge outfit on Thursday. The Portuguese was easily their best forward on the night, making smart runs, creating chances, and always finding ways to test the keeper. Unfortunately, a moment of madness in the 58th minute poured cold water on all his hard work.
The Atletico loanee had no business lunging in on Tete, especially when Potter’s men were on the ascendency. Had he not lost his head, the Blues would have had a real shot at coming away with maximum points.
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