Given the preposterous amounts of money Chelsea have spent during the January transfer window, it would have been natural for Fulham to feel a little fearful stepping into Stamford Bridge this evening. It seemed a little extreme for Chelsea to splash in excess of £300m after losing their first SW6 derby in seventeen years at Craven Cottage three weeks ago, but Todd Boehly did say money was no object. As Graham Potter is discovering, expensive acquisitions can just make a difficult job harder. One of his £80m arrivals, Mykhailo Mudryk, was hooked at half time having been completely nullified by a faultless display from Kenny Tete. Two more Chelsea wingers got no change out of the Dutch defender, who personified Fulham’s fight. The visitors more than deserved their point.
Often in the shadow of their near neighbours, Fulham are quietly making a real fist of it this time in the top flight. Their transfer window was decidedly quieter than their opponents. Only Sasa Lukic, who watched this game from the directors box, and Cedric Soares arrived in the final hours of deadline day. Cedric, on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season, might have to wait a while for an opportunity on the evidence of Tete’s tireless display. But it is harsh to highlight individuals when the secret of Fulham’s rise to be west London’s top team has been about their collective commitment to match Marco Silva’s high standards.
Joao Palhinha and Harrison Reed scrapped for the lives in central midfield but this was no backs-to-the-wall rearguard effort. Fulham had the only shot on target of a first period that was short on goalmouth incident, when the lively Andreas Pereira forced Kepa Arrizabalaga to push away a powerful low drive from the edge of the box. Chelsea appeared unfamiliar with each other, no surprise given the sheer volume of new players Potter could pick from, and Kai Havertz looked a little lost leading the line. The German international had the two best chances of the first half, hooking over on the stretch after a nice switch of play from debutant Enzo Fernandez, and then chipping onto the near post after being released by a raking ball from Hakim Ziyech.
Fulham began the second half on the front foot. The ageless Willian waltzed down the right flank and threatened to open the scoring against his former employers again, although this shot was more straightforward for Arrizabalaga to save. Tete then demonstrated his defensive diligence, heading over his own bar to prevent substitute Noni Madueke from converting a Reece James cross. The visitors still fancied their chances of breaking the deadlock with Pereira seeing a speculative shot blocked before Palhinha sliced an effort over the top.
Fulham’s threat on the break was in evidence with twenty minutes to go. Willian scampered down the left flank and latched onto a ball from Antonee Robinson, but played an early ball in search of Bobby Decordova-Reid when delaying a little longer would have allowed more white shirts to reach the penalty area. Aleksandar Mitrovic had been well marshalled by Thiago Silva but the Serbian almost found the net from inside his own half, with a perfectly struck lob causing a few heartstopping moments from Arrizabalaga before he gathered just under his own bar.
Chelsea might have nicked it at the death – and debutant David Datro Fofana, a £10m signing from Molde – probably should have scored after rounding Bernd Leno. Issa Diop forced the striker wide and when the Ivorian did strike for goal, he found Tim Ream in the way. Fulham held on quite comfortably for a creditable point and it might have been more if Palhinha’s audacious snapshot in stoppage time hadn’t flown a couple of yards over the angle of post and bar.
Potter will have to hope that his disjointed charges begin to fire in the weeks to come. He had at least avoided the embarrassment of becoming the first Chelsea boss to preside over two league defeats to Fulham in the same season. Silva’s side are no longer a soft touch – and they may only just be getting started.
CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Arrizabalaga; James (Azpilicueta 60), Cucurella (Chilwell 84), Silva, Badiashile; Fernandez, Gallagher; Ziyech (Sterling 60), Mudryk (Madueke 45), Mount (D. D. Fofana 75); Havertz. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, T. Chalobah, Koulibaly, Chukwumeka.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete, A. Robinson, Diop, Ream; Palhinha, Reed (Cairney 90+1); Decordova-Reid (Solomon 75), Willian (Wilson 75) Pereira (Kurzawa 90+4), Mitrovic (Vinicius 90+1). Subs (not used): Rodak, Adarabioyo, Duffy, James.
BOOKED: Palhinha, Pereira, Decordova-Reid, Wilson.
REFEREE: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).
Terrific performance from the mighty Whites
A point again Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is a magnificent result in my book.Silva picked what I consider to be our best team from the players available.good to see Soloman getting some more minutes I have high hopes for him he gives us something different
A good result!!!
If only Chelsea would spend more money in a transfer window they might have had a better chance against the mighty WHITES.
What a fabulous result well done everyone of them what a Shame 323 million Chelsea still can’t beat us when I see players like Bobby Reid,Tim Ream etc I felt proud they can keep there multi million pound players hopefully Chelsea will implode COYW
Superb performance from Fulham. They are absolutely working their socks off and it was brilliant to see them still going for the win in stoppage time. Very, very proud of this team.
Proud… Well done lads!!
Tactical masterclass from Silva – we’re so lucky to have him at the helm. Hope the hierarchy can tie him down to a longer contract because he will be in demand this summer. COYW!
Playing at Stamford Bridge and holding our own, without any fear or favour shows how much we have moved forward in just a couple of seasons under Silva. I believe that more credit should be given to the Khan(s), they have received a lot of stick especially Tony for his transfer dealings, but the truth is for everyone to see. Under their stewardship, Fulham are slowly but surely becoming a modern club with a great stadium respected by all teams.