Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table to four points thanks to Andre Schurrle’s hat-trick and Arsenal’s slip-up at Stoke.
Three well-taken goals in 16 second-half minutes kept up the pressure on Chelsea’s title challengers, although if Manchester City win their two games in hand, they will climb above Chelsea in the table.
Still, you can only do what is put in front of you and Chelsea are certainly only looking to win their matches and hope others drop points elsewhere. That was the case for Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium and as Manchester City are on League Cup duties this weekend, it means Jose Mourinho’s men will stay top of the pack for at least another couple of weeks.
But it could have been so different at Craven Cottage. Hangeland’s early exit in the match will have helped Chelsea, but the first-half was often frustrating and Fulham more than showed their worth.
But Fulham are the side who have conceded most goals in the Premier League this season — 62 in just 28 matches — so it would have been a travesty had Chelsea drawn a blank here.
Thank goodness for Andre Schurrle, who has found it hard to keep his place due to the form of Willian, but showed exactly why he deserves to start with a wonderful display of individual finishing, whilst always showing Fulham’s defensive frailties in abundance.
The first came seven minutes into the restart. Hazard’s lofted ball was controlled on the head by Schurrle, who surged at goal and finished well with his left foot.
The second was added in the 65th minute. Again it was Hazard the provider, with the German running onto the ball and crisply striking home with his left foot again.
The third, just three minutes later, was all too easy. Cech’s long ball was cushioned and controlled by Torres, who played in Schurrle and, with the right boot this time, lifted over Stekelenburg for the game’s third.
Heitinga’s prod home with 16 minutes left on the clock was the one down-side to Chelsea’s afternoon as complacency crept in, but it was a fine West London encounter with Chelsea eventually securing the points at a canter.
Man of the Match
ANDRE SCHURRLE: Poor in the first-half but made it count in the second. His hat-trick totally turned the game around, deflated Fulham, settled Chelsea’s nerves, and though Fulham managed to score a consolation, it was Schurrle who bagged the Blues all three points. Another precious victory with only 10 Premier League matches to go. 8/10
Jose Mourinho expressed his frustration with the first-half: “At half-time, I told them nothing — nothing — not a word. I walked in, then I walked out. I don’t know if anyone else gave a team talk. I was not inside the dressing room. If I could’ve made 11 changes, I might have done, but I could only make three, so I did nothing. [But] the second half was one of the best performances of the season. We moved the ball around well.”
Felix Magath was hardly expectant of the points playing against the league leaders: “Chelsea were too good for us. They played very well, wanted to win and were the better team. You cannot ask for a win against the Premier League leaders. We will not stay up with this kind of defending and need to learn better.”