Starting Line-up: Mendy; Chilwell, Rudiger, Silva, Azpilicueta (C); Mount, Jorginho (Out 65’), Kovacic; Pulisic, Giroud (Out 75’), Ziyech (Out 75’)
Subs: Kepa, Emerson, Zouma, James, Gilmour, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi (In 75’), Werner (In 75’), Abraham (In 65’)
Chelsea started the game off on the front foot and were able to win a corner within the first 3 minutes after Azpiicueta forced the Fulham defender into a mistake. The corner was worked well to the edge of the box, but Mason Mounts attempt was blocked. Fulham were pressing Chelsea high up and blocking the passing lanes into Jorginho and Kovacic, forcing Mendy to play longer passes wide to the full backs.
Fulham were playing in a back 3 in possession so the Chelsea full backs had the task of marking the Fulham wing backs, however this left space in behind in wide areas which Fulham were looking to exploit.
Chelsea came close to opening the scoring after Giroud and Mount linked up well on the edge of the Fulham box and Giroud tried to volley the ball with the outside of his foot, but he was unable to beat Areola. Nothing came from the following corner, Chelsea clearly lacked the aerial presence they get with Kurt Zouma. Chelsea were lacking width down the right hand side due to the absence of Reece James, Hakim Ziyech was drifting centrally and Azpilicueta was to slow to react and get up the pitch and take advantage of the space.
In the 12th minute Chelsea had shouts for a penalty ignored by the referee after claims Ola Aina handled the ball in the box but nothing was given. Giroud was struggling to hold the ball up for Chelsea as he was up against 3 physical defenders which meant it was difficult for him to bring others into the game when Chelsea had to play the ball long. Azpilicueta was also struggling with the pace of Robinson and Lookman and both were getting in behind with ease.
Fulham were in a compact 5-4-1 and were making it difficult for Chelsea to play by minimising the space between the lines.
Chelsea’s first real moment of quality came in the 22nd minute after Ziyech came central and dummied a pass from Thiago Silva before taking aim from Girouds lay off but Areola did well to get down and stop the ball entering the bottom corner. Mason Mount was pushing higher up in the right half space to attract Robinson central and to open space wide for Azpilicueta. Chelsea was not able to take advantage of this however as they were missing the quality of cross which would be provided by Reece James.
Mason Mount came close to scoring in the 24th minute after Ben Chilwell’s cross came to him and he was able to control the ball before smashing the crossbar with a brilliant attempt. A minute later Rudiger came close to heading home from a corner but again Areola did well to keep the ball out. It was then Fulhams turn to get a shot on goal, with Lookman sending Robinson in behind Azpilicueta with a nice pass before Robinson switched the ball to the Fulham RWB who then played it back into the box, but the Fulham striker was unable to connect cleanly with the ball and the chance was gone. Robinson was then sent off right before the break for a high challenge on Azpilicueta.
Chelsea had to take advantage of the extra man by moving the ball quickly to try and move the Fulham shape around and exploit the spaces they leave due to being a man down and fatigue. Fulham were now in a 5-3-1 which meant Chelsea now had more space centrally than they did in the first half. Ziyech was now coming central to link up with Giroud and Mount. This caused Fulham to start going very narrow and forcing Chelsea to play out wide.
In the 62nd minute Giroud had a brilliant chance to score after Ziyech linked well with Mason Mount before the Englishman flicked the ball behind him into the path of Giroud whose attempt went wide, however it was called for offside. Lampard made his first sub in the 64th minute, taking off Jorginho for Tammy Abraham and changing the formation to a 4-4-2. The striker almost had an instant impact after a brilliant lofted pass into the box from Rudiger went straight to Abraham but his header went right into the keepers arms. Chelsea then came close a minute later as Ziyechs beautiful cross to the back post was inches away from being converted by a sliding Pulisic.
In the 67th minute there was a mix up between Azpilicueta and Mendy after Mendy came off his line to win the ball but Azpilicueta tried to pass the ball back to him and if it wasn’t a trailing leg by the keeper the captain could have put the ball into his own net. In the 77th minute Lampard brought on Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi to add some more attacking threat and took off Giroud and Ziyech. Hudson-Odoi would bring some width down the right which Chelsea had lacked all game.
Within 3 minutes of the substitutions being made Chelsea were able to open the scoring after Areola parried Chilwells cross right into the path of Mason Mount who finished brilliantly to put Chelsea 1-0 up. This seemed to knock all the energy out of Fulham who had worked hard all game, and now they were leaving spaces in behind which Timo Werner almost exploited as he went through on goal late on but his attempt went wide. The German was clearly lacking confidence as his poor form continues.
Lampard takes his men to Leicester who are coming into this game off a brilliant 2-0 win over Southampton which put them into 2nd place in the league. Reece James will be a huge boost if he’s fit to play as he offers Chelsea so much going forwards down the right hand side.
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