Verdict: Chelsea prevail and Fulham deserve credit – but both have problems

Chelsea took the spoils. Fulham, the plaudits.

In the battle of Fulham Road, the side in blue were breathing a little easier after Mason Mount’s opportune strike in the second half handed them all three points.

But it was hard on the Whites.

Antonee Robinson’s red card just before the break made all the difference, but a reorganised Fulham defended the barricade with a will for 78 minutes.

In fact, it looked as if they were going to get away with it until Mason mounted that barricade and stormed over the top.

There are no arguments with Robinson’s red.

It wasn’t malicious, but it was late enough on César Azpilicueta, although his reaction – along with Mount squaring up to Robinson – was unnecessary.

Referee Peter Bankes was across instantly – and I’ve never seen VAR review a decision so swiftly.

Robinson is one of those defenders whose normal timing makes him a very clean and welcome addition to the Premier League.

Costly Cav miss

Fulham head coach Scott Parker talks constantly about “small margins”.

There was nothing small about the shocking miss from Ivan Cavaleiro just before half-time that would have put Fulham ahead.


His shot against his standing foot was woeful and after a terrific move that involved the soon to be dismissed Robinson.

I’m not sure Fulham fans saw the funny side – but Cav was beaming in bemusement as the ball flew hopelessly wide.

The Portuguese also scuffed an early chance when he got the ball trapped under his foot.

As it turned out, one of those decent chances converted and it might have ended 1-1 – just as it did at Spurs on Wednesday when Cavaleiro converted a far harder chance.

At the other end, Olivier Giroud was looking his 34 years.

His second-half miss in acres of space from six yards was offside, but the Frenchman didn’t know that at the time, and when he pulled his shirt over his head to hide his embarrassment, it still didn’t hide an average performance until substituted by Timo Werner.

It was the best thing that could have happened from Giroud’s point of view.

Werner himself missed a decent chance soon after.

He then spurned an even bigger one in added time after sprinting beyond a stretched defence to shoot well wide.

Forget the FA Cup goal Werner scored against League Two Morecambe, the last time the German found the back of the net in a Premier League fixture was the beginning of November against Sheffield United.

Tough evening for Azpilicueta

Mount showed why manager Frank Lampard has kept faith with him, and Azpilicueta was in the thick of things.

The recipient of Robinson’s sending-off tackle, the Chelsea defender also picked up a yellow card before getting another hefty whack that earned Ademola Lookman a yellow in a game where the referee pulled the same card out five times.

Azpilicueta then had a golden chance to put the game out of sight in the dying seconds. Instead, he put it out of sight in the back of the Putney End. Very much a defender’s shot.

The Spaniard will know he’s been in a game on Sunday morning.

Tough time for both clubs

That extra weight of expectation is all on Lampard’s shoulders and this result will do little to lighten the mood of a team that are not going to challenge for the title.

Lampard got away with it, while Parker’s organisation in defence made sure there was very little space until Mount cashed in.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was missing for Fulham again.  That FA Cup win at QPR really did take it out of the forward.

Worse still, Parker and Fulham have to face Manchester United on Wednesday without Robinson and Bobby Decordova-Reid as both are now suspended.

It doesn’t get any easier for a side now four points from safety.