EPL: Chelsea battle past Fulham in West London derby

Chelsea have recorded their second successive win in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Fulham in Sunday’s West London derby.
Gonzalo Higuain’s opener was cancelled out by Calum Chambers but Jorginho netted Chelsea’s second shortly afterwards, and it proved decisive as the Blues moved to within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United.
Fulham impressed in Scott Parker’s first game in charge, but the Cottagers remain 10 points adrift of safety with just nine matches remaining.
Chelsea began the game on the front foot with Higuain sending a glancing header wide of the post, but Fulham hit straight back with Joe Bryan seeing a long-range curler go marginally off target.
Ross Barkley was the next to try his luck with a well-struck strike which went over the crossbar, but Chelsea soon went in front with Higuain volleying home from 12 yards after meeting Cesar Azpilicueta’s low cross.
However, there was no suggestion that Fulham were going to wilt, and only a fine Kepa Arrizabalaga save prevented Aleksandar Mitrovic’s volley from finding the top corner.
The Cottagers’ equaliser came from the resulting corner, with Ryan Babel’s inswinging cross allowing Chambers to send an eight-yard volley past Arrizabalaga having been left free at the back post.
Chelsea became nervous at the back as Fulham remained intent on trying to capitalise on the momentum which they had created, but the Blues did not have to wait long before regaining their advantage.
Eden Hazard did well down the left before teeing up Jorginho on the edge of the area, and the Italian proceeded to find the far top corner with a first-time effort from 20 yards out.
The goal provided Chelsea with further encouragement to attack Fulham, and the visitors only remained competitive in the game thanks to Sergio Rico making excellent reaction saves to keep out each of Hazard and Higuain.
Chelsea continued to look for a third after the restart, and Hazard and Willian both had shots saved by Rico who remained busy in the Fulham goal.
Willian also sent a volley into the side-netting after being found by a long raking pass, but Fulham remained a threat at the other end and Mitrovic almost found the roof of the net with a powerful effort from distance.
Tom Cairney and Bryan were also denied by Arrizabalaga as the hosts kept the pressure on their neighbours, but Fulham’s improvement did not stop Sarri opting to replace each of Jorginho and Hazard.
Chelsea were not offering much of a threat at the other end, and Fulham almost took advantage by finding an equaliser two minutes from time with Mitrovic seeing his header parried away by Arrizabalaga after some excellent play from Floyd Ayite.
Ryan Sessegnon thought that he had got his team back on level terms in the fourth minute of added-on time, but the youngster was half-a-yard offside when he converted from close range.
Fulham will feel that they deserved a share of the spoils after matching Chelsea for large periods of the game, but caretaker boss Parker will still take pride from how his team performed against their nearest rivals, who have now delivered three improved performances for Sarri at a time when the Italian remains under pressure to keep his job in the dugout.