Kai Havertz's brace saw Chelsea comfortably secure a 2-0 home win against bedraggled west London rivals Fulham to tighten their grip on a top-four spot.
After a strong start from Fulham, Mason Mount slipped a slide-rule pass through for the German striker, who squeezed an effort past Alphonse Areola.
Edouard Mendy made a couple of good stops from Ademola Lookman and Ola Aina, and Areola denied Hakim Ziyech at the other end, all before half-time, but in the second half there was little danger to the Chelsea goal.
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The game was put beyond doubt when Havertz drifted in from the right and exchanged passes with Timo Werner before breaking the offside trap and slotting home.
The win puts Chelsea six points clear of West Ham having played a game more, and just two behind Leicester in third, while Fulham are nine points adrift of safety with just four games remaining.
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After the Blues played so well in the Spanish capital it would be a brave move to select a different side for the return leg at Stamford Bridge, but Havertz showed today he could be Chelsea’s best spearhead.
While Werner’s industry and link play does make up for a lot of his profligacy in front of goal, the fact remains if you had to choose for one German Chelsea player for a big chance to fall to, it is not a close call.
Christian Pulisic, Mount and Werner combined very well at the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, but the trio have combined for just 25 goals between them this season.
Havertz has also been far from prolific in a difficult, Covid-19 and injury-interrupted first season at the Bridge, but of late when given the chance to start, admittedly against the likes of Crystal Palace and Fulham, he looks Chelsea’s best hope to get goals from Tuchel's favoured false number nine role.
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Man of the match: Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Another fine display from the young England midfielder. While many of his team-mates did not seem particularly up for this game after the glamour of the Champions League game on Tuesday, Mount was on his game as per usual.
It is easy to see why Thomas Tuchel did not make the midfielder one of his five changes from the side.
After Fulham began the game very well, pressing Chelsea hard and outworking their fellow West London opponents, it was Mount – playing in a deeper role than midweek – who got his side moving forward and got Kai Havertz into the game, most importantly for the opening goal.
Chelsea: Mendy 7, Christensen 7, Thiago Silva 7, Zouma 6, James 7, Gilmour 6, Mount 8*, Chilwell 7, Ziyech 7, Havertz 8, Werner 7. Subs: Kante 6, Abraham 6, Alonso 6
Fulham: Areola 7; Aina 7, Andersen 7, Adarabioyo 6, Robinson 7; De Cordova-Reid 6, Anguissa 7, Lemina 6, Lookman 6; Cavaleiro 5, Maja 6. Subs: Onomah 6, Mitrovic 6, Carvalho 6.
11’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! A long ball down the middle is controlled brilliantly by Mount and then he slips the ball through to Havertz who squeezes his effort home.
37’ Mount plays another fine ball through for Werner, he squares to Ziyech but the Fulham keeper does superbly diving to his right and keeper the deficit to one.
45+1’ Aina strikes well 20 yards from goal and Mendy just manages to palm it away after James' deflection almost sends the ball past him.
49’ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! Havertz and Werner combine for the latter to beat the offside trap and slide home. Havertz started the move on the right, beat two players and then slipped the ball into his compatriot who returned the pass and it ended in a goal.
14 – Fulham have lost 14 of 15 games this season when conceding the first goal.
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