By Paul Lagan at Craven Cottage
Fulham 0 v Chelsea 1
Mason Mount eased the pressure mounting on Frank Lampard by scoring the only goal in a tough, tense west London derby that saw them overcome 10-man Fulham 1-0 at the Cottage tonight.
The 22-year-old midfielder struck a sweet half-volley on 78 minutes to finally break the stoic resistance of the Whites, who had to play the second half with 10 players after referee Peter Banks gave a straight record to Antonee Robinson for lunging late into Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea move up to seventh at least for now and it’s the second league win in seven for the Blues.
Lampard opted for experience to see him over the line and experience was needed to stay calm for the course of the game.
Fulham were set up for the counter-attack and every time they foraged forward they put the Blues defence under pressure.
The Whites remain third from bottom of the league six points from safety.
Chelsea predictably started the match on the front foot, with the home side content to relinquish possession. Mason Mount had a shot from the outside of the Fulham penalty area blocked after three minutes.
But gradually the Whites started to press on the shoulders of the nearest Chelsea player , forcing them to adopt a more cautious approach.
But a smart piece of play between Mount and Oliver Giroud on one minutes saw the France striker zipped a curling left-footer goal-bound, but Alphonse Areola parried the ball way for a corner.
On the break, Fulham looked dangerous. On 16 minutes, Cesar Azpilicueta was skinned by Antonee Robinson, on the left. He had a shot blocked by Thiago Silver and the follow-up effort by Ademola Lookman was also desperately defended.
The Blues looked very uncomfortable whenever the Whites got close to their penalty area.
A quick one-two, on 23 minutes between Giroud and Ziyech, saw the Morocco wide-man pile drive a left-footer on the edge of the Fulham penalty area. Areola was quick to the dive and snaffled the ball at the base of his left post.
This gave the Blues impetus to push forward and Mount was unfortunate to see his angled effort ricochet off the crossbar two minutes later.
Toni Rudiger thought he had scored a minute later when he headed a powerful effort from a Mount corner towards the goal, but again Areola tipped the ball round the post.
Fulham had a glorious chance to open the score on 40 minutes when a quick break, again on the left, saw the ball pinged across the Chelsea area and back again for in-running Ivan Cavaleiro, but the winger shot wide from eight yards out.
Disaster struck for the home side right on the half-time whistle when referee Peter Banks Instantly pulled out a red card when Robinson lunged with a late challenge on Azpilicueta.The Chelsea full back soared into the air and crashed onto the ground.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
The Blues pushed the pedal on the accelerator and forced a succession of early corners as the Whites held firm at the back.
But the break was always on for the 10-men and ex-Blue Ola Aina saw his effort sail high and wide of Edouard Mendy’s crossbar on 54 minutes.
Giroud’s blushes were spared when he missed from eight yards out. The linesman adjusted the striker to have just started offside on 65 minutes.
Chelsea head coach opted to change formation, bringing on striker Tammy Abraham for midfielder Jorginho a minute later.
And the Camberwell-born hit man’s first effort saw a glancing header well saved by Areola.
A wonderful pass by Ziyech almost reached Mount who raced into the six-yard box, but the ball just eluded the midfielder.
Mendy almost gifted the home side the lead when his wayward clearance fell to Cavaleiro, but his goal-bound effort on 68 minutes was blocked by Mount.
While the Blues kept the pressure up, they were not creating clear-cut chances. On came Timo Werner for Giroud, quickly followed by Callum Hudson-Odoi for Ziyech.
The pressure finally reaped dividends on 78 minutes when Mount latched onto a scooped clearance by Areola and the midfielder lashed home from 10 yards.
Fulham had defended brilliantly up to that point.
Werner should have finished t]off their neighbours deep into added time, but after running half the length of the pitch, the German screwed the ball wide.
Teams: Fulham, Areola, Tete, Andersen, Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Lookman, Reed, Anguissa, Robinson, Aina
Subs, Rodak, Hector, Odoi, Kebano, Ream, Bryan, Onomah, Kamara
Chelsea: Mendy, Rudiger, Jorginho, Pulisic, Kovacic, Giroud, Mount, Chilwell, Ziyech, Azpilicueta
Subs, Kepa, Abraham, Werner, Zouma, Hudson-Odoi, Gilmour, James, Havertz, Emerson
Referee; Peter Banks
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.