It was, said Thomas Tuchel, the ‘perfect match’ and it was hard to disagree from Chelsea’s perspective. A pivotal match for a top four finish, but against relegation feeds and sandwiched between two of the greatest matches in the club’s history against Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final, was an accident yet to happen.
Though it may seem like you’ve got Kai Havertz, finally finding his stride and bringing a zest for life into his game that’s been missing for most of the season.
And not if you let Mason Mount play this way, overthrow experienced professionals with the sheer brutality of its touch. From Teacher’s Pet to Player of the Year, it’s been quite a season for the 22-year-old.
Kai Havertz scored his first Premier League double when Chelsea drove past neighbors Fulham on Saturday night
It was arguably the German’s best performance in a Chelsea shirt since his move from Bayer Leverkusen with mega money.
The Blues are in an impressive position in the race for the top four following their routine victory over Fulham
The 21-year-old put the Blues ahead after finishing Mason Mount’s well-weighted through ball at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea strode on and neared a top four finish, despite Fulham being snappy and playing all the time simply because they were just brutal in the timing of their goals. Both were scored at the start of each half, and they smashed whatever naive conviction Fulham could muster, stamped it into the ground, and smashed every long-drawn-out life in it.
It did so while taking calculated risks. There was a break for more mature players like captain Cesar Azpilcueta, given the amount of running he was expected to follow back and forth in that semi-final, and Jorginho, given the evening off to patrol midfield with more energy. on Wednesday. N’Golo Kanté only came to add a touch of stability for the final third of the game. Billy Gilmour, 19, was asked to keep midfield alone, despite not having started a Premier League game since January.
And Fulham started off beautifully. They had tested Edouard Mendy more than once in the beginning, the Chelsea goalkeeper’s one-handed rescue from Antonee Robinson’s blistering shot, the culmination of an extraordinary opening by the relegation fighters, who saw them enforce a succession of corners.
MATCHES AND PLAYER RATINGS
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy 8; Christensen 7, Silva 7.5, Zouma 7; James 6.5, Gilmour 6, Mount 9 (Abraham 76 6), Chilwell 8 (Alonso 81); Ziyech 6 (Kante 66 7), Werner 6.5; Havertz 8.5.
Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Jorginho, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta, Anjorin.
Goals: Havertz 10, 49
Manager: Thomas Tuchel
Fulham (4-4-2): Areola 7; Aina 6, Andersen 5, Tosin 7, Robinson 5; De Cordova-Reid, Anguissa 6, Lemina 6 (Carvalho 78 6), Lookman 7; House 5.5 (Mitrovic 81), Cavaleiro 6 (Onomah 78 6).
Subs not used: Tete, Hector, Odoi, Rodak, Ream, Bryan.
Manager: Scott Parker
Referee: Kevin Friend 7
But after seizing the initiative in the game, they admitted it at the first sign of an attack. Thiago Silva shot a simple long ball to the opponent’s half. Admittedly, Fulham couldn’t necessarily have legislated for Mount’s brilliance.
In an excellent moment, he killed that hopeful ball of the Brazilian dead. In doing so, he baffled Joachim Andersen and Ola Aina, who were suddenly too deep and left Mount too much room, believing he couldn’t possibly perform such a precise touch so quickly. Mount then simply fed Kai Havertz, who took a tap and put Chelsea ahead after 10 minutes.
These two stood out here and Tuchel praised them, especially Mount. ‘He has the full package, mental, talented, physical and above all character.
Scott Parker’s men showed a lot of energy and industry but were unable to find an edge over their west London rivals
Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech did not get his name on the scoresheet after being rejected by Alphonse Areola
Ademola Lookman saw his fierce low blow being knocked off by Edouard Mendy as Fulham worked his way into the game
‘He comes to Cobham every day and wants to learn. It is a pleasure to have him and to be by his side and guide him. It’s impressive because regardless of any praise or criticism, it doesn’t bother him.
He seems to be someone who feels he has a duty to get the most out of the sport. There was a brief shock when he landed on his back in the second half and was eliminated a few minutes later, but Tuchel was confident he would be fit on Wednesday.
As for Havertz, this is the player Roman Abramovich is thought to have signed with Bayer Leverkusen, scurrying around, contacting Timo Werner and clinically in his execution. If he plays like that, he can even start against Real Madrid.
Havertz then threw home four minutes in the second half after beating the offside trap to put Chelsea in a strong position
The 21-year-old Chelsea star is driving off to celebrate after winning the hostess’ second game
The German forward doubled his Premier League score in a comfortable afternoon at Stamford Bridge
“He had his chance and he showed up,” said Tuchel. ‘You need guys like that. If you have five minutes or fifteen minutes to show that you are ready and give the manager a headache for the next game and this is what he did. ‘
For Fulham, this is what a relegation season looks like for an idealistic young team; much strength and youthful expression punished at the first opportunity.
One zero less, they insisted. Ademola Lookman carried out a quick and excellent attack on the goal, which Mendy had to tap wide. And when half time beckoned, Aina made a shot outside the box. It turned away from Reece James and Mendy was called up again, showing admirable agility by changing his stance at the last minute due to the change of direction and pushing the ball away.
Mason Mount was able to continue after landing on his back after a challenge towards the end on Saturday
But hope is fragile. All the exuberance of what was undoubtedly an inspiring half-time team talk from Scott Parker was extinguished within three minutes of the restart.
Ben Chilwell played the overwhelming crossfield ball to Havertz, which hit him from the inside to Werner. Then came the moment of pure class: Werner’s neat touch to get the ball into the penalty area and Havertz’s wonderfully timed run to beat the offside trap. He hit the ball in for his second goal of the evening, survived the VAR review and left Chelsea in full control of the game.
It wasn’t that Fulham gave up. They tried to torment and make an effort all the time. It’s just that hope is slowly fading, as is their Premier League status.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side has only four games to go and is now six points ahead of fifth-seeded West Ham
Scott Parker passionately refuted the despair, a reminder of the time when he brought West Ham together as a player and raised his teammates trailing 3-0 at West Brom to a 3-3 draw in 2011.
“We have to win four games,” Parker pleaded, and you almost thought they could. ‘We’ve seen it before, haven’t we? People will laugh at me, thinking it can happen. But let’s wait and see what happens until that curtain falls. ‘
Everything is stacked against him. Fulham has never won four consecutive games in the Premier League. And that inspiring team meeting in 2011? West Ham pulled the match, but would go down anyway.
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