LONDON… It is fitting that the man who trusted Frank Lampard, perhaps more than anyone else, came to the aid of Chelsea’s head coach when he was in need.
The Blues couldn’t have done better than a draw at Craven Cottage a minute before the break, although they played outnumbered in the second half after Anthony Robinson was sent off for a ferocious tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta a minute before half-time. Despite a full squad of expensive strikers, Chelsea fought hard to break down a spirited Fulham side and eventually had to settle for a draw when Ben Chilwell fired in an innocent cross 12 minutes from time. Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola took an unconvincing fall and fell to Mason Mount, who stood firm and fired low into the net to give the visitors a precious 1-0 victory, their first Premier League win in 21 years. December.
We all knew we needed a win, we put pressure on ourselves, Sky Sports told us after the game. We looked at the quality in the locker room, we knew we had to win games. The last few weeks were tough, but we tried to win against a good team that played well.
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It was Mount’s first league goal in 26 years. September and the reward for the player who gave the most effort, recording a total of seven assists and hitting eight crosses, more than any other player on the field.
In the second half, Lampard fired the team into motion in search of a winning goal, with Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi coming in desperate for answers. Hakim Ziyech was highlighted as a key creative influence in the build-up, but here he passed the ball 22 times, more than any other player.
And in the end, it was a local boy, whose place on the team was often questioned, who won the race. Lampard is very happy with the striker’s identity and has fiercely defended him this season against criticism from some Chelsea fans on social media, who question whether he has the quality to play so often in a team trying to win the league title. In fact, just five days ago Lampard said the Mount could, should and would score more goals.
I thought he was exceptional, the coach said of his midfielder after the game. He’s been there for us this season and for the last. It is constantly evolving. He’s still young, just turned 22 last week. Overall, his play was excellent and he deserved to finish. He cares about this club, he wants to be the best player in Chelsea and I’m very happy to have him.
Chelsea put a bit of pressure on in the second half, but their 70 per cent possession meant they couldn’t score many chances.
In preparation for this match, Lampard pointed out that the Blues finally had two weeks off on the training ground to work on after their easy third round FA Cup victory over Morecambe. Perhaps the worst charges against this 42-year-old woman arose when she didn’t really come forward.
Error! The file name is not specified. Frank Lampard’s protégé, desperate for a result, produced the winner for Chelsea. CLIVE ROSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.
Chelsea failed to clear a cross from Reece James’ long-range shot and perhaps an aerial threat from Kurt Zouma on the corner, which Antonio Rudiger took advantage of, and the game was balanced until Robinson’s dismissal. Although Mount hit the bar on half time, Fulham had the best chance: Ivan Cavallero, who scored the equaliser in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, fired wide when Kenny Titus found him defenceless in the box 12 yards from goal.
Robinson’s tackle on Azpilicueta came three minutes later, and while it was only a little late and not particularly high, it was an overzealous tackle with excessive force that led referee Peter Banks to rule that VAR did not care enough to overturn it. Then Fulham tackled the task with determination and it should not be forgotten that Leicester City, Liverpool and Spurs struggled to beat a team revitalised by several new signings and a change orchestrated by Scott Parker.
Ultimately, fatigue may have been a factor. Fulham had 48 hours to organise a team for the game against Spurs as the postponement by COVID-19 caused chaos in the schedule. The deadweight loss was exacerbated by the reduction of the number of men to ten.
This is an important win for us, Lampard said. In the grand scheme of things it’s only three points, but because we’ve had some results recently that we didn’t like, it was important for us. That keeps us in the top four, but we have to keep going. I don’t want to get too excited about a win, but it’s important for confidence.
Lampard will be relieved that Chelsea have found a winner, but Werner still had time to remind everyone what a terrible drag he was in when he burst into timeout but narrowly missed. His last goal in the league was the seventh. November. Kai Havertz, Chelsea’s most expensive signing of the summer, costing £71m out of £220m, remained unused as a replacement.
Chelsea will have to make a collective commitment to Leicester on Tuesday. Maybe then some of the training in the field will pay off.