Chelsea rebounded from a pair of losses to Everton and Basel to score a key 2-0 victory over Fulham in the latest West London derby. It was crucial for the Blues to get back on track at Stamford Bridge, with a busy stretch on the horizon in the coming weeks.
The first half was sluggish from both sides. Chelsea were the more active side, but they failed to capitalize on the scoring chances they created, a trend Jose Mourinho is working to end with different lineups. On the flip side, Fulham struggled to move forward efficiently.
Chelsea finally broke through early in the second half, as Oscar, who was very active in a playmaking role throughout the match, found the net. The Blues took complete control from there and cruised to three important points after a couple of lackluster results.
Let's check out some of the top performers from the Premier League clash.
Juan Mata is a more natural fit for the No. 10 role as his 32 assists over the previous two terms illustrate. He's a defensive liability, however, and that's apparently too much for Mourinho to overlook, which is why Oscar is getting a chance to fill the slot instead.
The Brazilian international wasn't perfect against Fulham, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. He was heavily involved throughout the match, helping jump-start attacks and fighting for space in the final third.
His effort paid off with what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 52nd minute. Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale failed to secure a couple Chelsea shots and the ball eventually bounced right to Oscar, who finished the job.
Mourinho is still working to get all of the Blues' talented pieces to fit together into a championship-level squad, but Oscar is earning his spot. More performances like that will make sure he secures it.
John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
Mikel has been a Chelsea stalwart for the past handful of seasons. He's appeared in at least 35 matches across all competitions in every campaign since joining the Blues from Lyn in 2006. The Nigerian is a stabilizing force in the midfield.
One thing he doesn't do often is score. He found the net twice in his debut season with the club and has been held off the score sheet since, a serious drought for a midfielder, even one with defensive tendencies like Mikel. But it came to an end in the derby.
Scoreless streaks like that typical end with a lucky bounce, but that wasn't the case for Mikel. John Terry headed the ball back across goal off a corner, and the midfielder contorted his body perfectly to give Chelsea some breathing room late.
Mikel is overlooked because of the club's star-studded squad, but he finds a way to make an impact more often than not. It normally just doesn't come in the form of a goal as it did against Fulham.
Fernando Amorebieta (Fulham)
Fulham didn't have much luck moving forward in the match. They were outclassed in the midfield, which meant a lot of time was spent defending. And the final score could have been far more lopsided if not for the play of Amorebieta.
The centre-back was under constant pressure and never looked overwhelmed, forcing Chelsea to the outside on most occasions. He also worked well to make sure Samuel Eto'o wasn't able to break free in dangerous areas, where he's made a living for the past decade.
Add in a couple key tackles, and it was really as good of a performance as Fulham could ask for given the surrounding circumstances. He's settled in nicely next to Brede Hangeland after arriving without much hype during the summer.
Being competitive will remain a struggle for the Cottagers until the club starts getting more production up front, but at least Amorebieta gives them reason to be optimistic about the defensive effort.
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