Chelsea were not able to reproduce the same level of performance shown against Manchester City and Tottenham, but it was still enough to beat Fulham at Craven Cottage today. First-half goals from former Napoli-duo Gonzalo Higuaín and Jorginho were enough for Chelsea to take all three points.
The Blues could have had a much larger and more comfortable advantage had Higuaín converted more than just one of his several guilt-edged chances early, but Fulham were unable to score more than just one equalizer, even as Chelsea visibly tired in an increasingly sloppy second half.
Afterwards, Maurizio Sarri paid tribute to his team's perseverance and resolve to see out the narrow win.
“I think that we played very well for 60 minutes. We didn’t kill the match and in the last 20 minutes we were very tired. In the seven days we played 120 minutes against City, then 90 minutes against Spurs and then today it was an important derby.”
“It was a difficult match. Very well for 60 minutes but then very tired.”
This was Chelsea’s first away win of 2019 in the Premier League (in four tries) with the Blues winning back-to-back games in seemingly forever. Sarri's hoping that Chelsea have finally found the consistency we've all been waiting for.
“Today we had a great opportunity I think because we were five points to the top four with two matches. Now we are only two points.”
“It is not easy, we have to fight to the last minute of the last match. We are fighting.”
“In the last four matches we have done well. It was important the League Cup final, we lost on penalties but after the last match at City, in the final we played at the same level as Manchester City.”
“It was important for our confidence. I think that a minimum of consistency has arrived.”
One of the players to make a good impression today was the much-maligned Jorginho, who had yet another strong performance and even scored a goal — his second this season — in his stated quest to prove his detractors wrong.
Sarri was obviously happy for his protegé as well, especially after sticking by him through the recent tough times.
“I am very happy for him because he scored, but my opinion about Jorginho is the same. He is a great player, one of the most important in Europe in that position.”
“It is not easy in a first season in this team, he was tired at then end. In that position we have had some problem, we try in training with Kovacic and the answer of him was very good.”
After getting dropped for the last game as punishment for his the "misunderstanding" with Sarri about a substitution, Kepa returned to the fold against Fulham and gave one of his best showings in Chelsea shirt, despite not grabbing a clean sheet and making one little blunder that went unpunished by Fulham's Ryan Babel.
Sarri had already deemed the situation ‘closed’ before the match, a stance he reinforced after as well.
“He played very well, it was a normal decision. He paid with the club and the team, now the situation is closed.”
“There wasn’t another way but I think that Kepa is a man, he understood and reacted really very well.”
“I can kill him, but I think it is right. I spoke with him during the week, he understood.”
“His training was really very good, the reaction today was very good. I know the man, he is very good. He made a mistake, but now that is enough. Caballero is a very important player for our dressing room so I have to find space for him.”
All drama aside, the most important thing for Chelsea is that we are back in position to overtake Manchester United and Arsenal, trailing them by 2 and 1 points, respectively, and with a game-in-hand, and Spurs are now closer as well.
“As I said before we were trying to involve Tottenham in the fighting, now that has happened. It is better to have two places for four teams.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: football.london
Come on you Blues!