Jose Mourinho put recent poor form down to a change in style, and there was nothing fancy about Chelsea’s home win over Fulham, but it took them top of the Premier League.
Oscar’s scrappy strike and a collector’s item from John Obi Mikel, both in the second half, settled the West London derby.
Mourinho made four changes from the shock Champions League defeat by Basel in midweek in an attempt to stop the rot.
Frank Lampard, David Luiz, Marco van Ginkel and Willian made way for Blues skipper John Terry Schurrle, Ramires and Mikel. Juan Mata joined Luiz in watching from the stands.
Fulham manager Martin Jol handed recalls to Darren Bent and Damien Duff, but Dimitar Berbatov failed a fitness test.
Bryan Ruiz also sat this one out, meaning there were three changes from the home Premier League draw with West Bromwich Albion. Venezuela defender Fernando Amorebieta made his first start, so Philippe Senderos dropped to substitute.
David Stockdale saved at close quarters from Samuel Eto’o as the Chelsea striker tried to turn in a Branislav Ivanovic centre. Fulham frontman Bent then spurned a glorious early chance to put the visitors ahead.
Pajtim Kasami’s through-ball found Bent in behind the home defence, but, rather than shoot either side of Petr Cech, he shot straight at the goalie. Clear cut openings were few and far between thereafter.
Eden Hazard tried his luck from distance, but dragged wide as Jol’s Fulham also nullified the threat of Schurrle, Oscar and Eto’o. Stockdale kept out Ivanovic on the stroke of half time with the rebound cannoning off Kieran Richardson and behind.
The Blues had the breakthrough early in the second half after another uninspiring first 45. Oscar was on hand to tap in when Stockdale twice spilled shots following a move down the left.
Ramires then went down in the box under what looked like a clip from Amorebieta, but referee Andre Marriner appeared unconvinced the contact was enough to bring him down.
Stockdale thwarted sub Fernando Torres with a superb reaction stop to the Spaniard’s near post header. Mikel turned in the resulting corner, however, to seal victory for Chelsea with six minutes left, and break his Premier League duck at the 185th attempt.
Richardson tried in vain to catch Cech out on his near post late on, so Fulham had no consolation. Striker Bent fed off merely scraps, and for all the spotlight on Mourinho, that fact is more pressing as Jol may see his side struggle this term.
- Chelsea: 1 Petr Cech, 2 Branislav Ivanovic, 24 Gary Cahill, 26 John Terry (c), 3 Ashley Cole, 7 Ramires, 12 John Obi Mikel, 14 Andre Schurrle (8 Frank Lampard 80’), 11 Oscar, 17 Eden Hazard (15 Kevin De Bruyne 85’), 29 Samuel Eto’o (9 Fernando Torres 64’) 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Oscar 52’, John Obi Mikel 84’
- Fulham: 13 David Stockdale, 27 Sascha Riether, 5 Brede Hangeland (c), 35 Fernando Amorebieta, 15 Kieran Richardson, 7 Steve Sidwell, 28 Scott Parker, 16 Damien Duff (19 Adel Taarabt 64’), 8 Pajtim Kasami (20 Hugo Rodallega 85’), 11 Alex Kacaniklic (36 Buomesca Tue Na Bangna 72’), 39 Darren Bent 4-2-3-1