Chelsea have managed to pull themselves four points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win against bottom of the table Fulham. After a goalless first half, goalscorer Andre Schurrle managed to bag a hat-trick for the Blues in 16 minutes. Fulham’s Johnny Heitinga managed to pull one back for the Cottagers but it wasn’t going to be anything more than a consolation. Fulham are now five points from safety and haven’t won in eight league games.
Chelsea on the other hand are now unbeaten in 12 league matches since their 3-2 loss to Stoke back in December. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who was caught on camera appearing to criticize his strikers’ lack of goals, left Samuel Eto’o out of his squad entirely, starting with Fernando Torres up front, but it was Schurrle who did the damage. Eden Hazard played his part as well, setting up Schurrle twice and being at the centre of everything in the second half. For Schurrle’s first goal, Hazard clipped the ball over the top, leaving Schurrle to take it round Dan Burn and slot it past Stekelenburg.
The pair combined again for the second, dinked the ball to Schurrle in the penalty box for a simple chance and Torres repeated this trick to set Schurrle up for the third Chelsea goal. Fulham then pushed on and managed to pull one back after the ball found its way into the penalty box, where Darren Bent played a sharp pass across goal to Heitinga who converted the chance. Fulham substitutes Lewis Holtby and Giorgos Karagounis gave the Cottagers some more life, but the damage had already been done. Plus, Fulham had to deal with an injury earlier on, as Brede Hangeland was replaced by Dan Burn after a nasty clash of heads with team-mate Kieran Richardson
Fulham boss Felix Magath had this to say after the game:
“Chelsea were too good for us. They played very well, wanted to win and were the better team. There were some good situations for us in the first half but we are responsible for not playing so well. We will not stay up with this kind of defending and need to learn better.
“The biggest problem was that our captain[Brede Hangeland] was gone after a few minutes. If he could have played the whole game, we could have had a different result. You cannot ask for a win against the Premier League leaders, so the next games are the ones we will be looking to win.”
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “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. The second half was a great reaction to the worst performance of the season.
“The second half was one of the best performances of the season. We moved the ball around well. If I could’ve made 11 changes, I might have done, but I could only make three – so I did nothing.
“Schurrle is cold in front of the goal.
“We have have four points more than Arsenal. The gap to Man City is a fake advantage. If they win their games in hand, they’re top of the league. We’re behind them.”
Chelsea’s hat-trick hero Andre Schurrle: “The most important thing was the points. With the three goals for me, it’s a perfect day. The manager said little at half-time, telling us to get on with it.
“This is the spirit of the team. We played very poorly in the first half and very well in the second. The players were a little tired after Wednesday but we showed our quality.”