Chelsea’s old dogs show plenty of bite

Terry and Lampard lead rout of Fulham at Craven Cottage

Chelsea's David Luiz opens the scoring against Fulham during the Premier League game at Craven Cottage.   Photograph:  Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Chelsea's David Luiz opens the scoring against Fulham during the Premier League game at Craven Cottage. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Wed, Apr 17, 2013, 22:39

Fulham 0 Chelsea 3: Performances like this insist there is life in the old guard yet. Chelsea have thrust their way back into third place in the Premier League, eclipsing Fulham with players whose days at the club seem rather numbered thriving in the familiarity of a derby. Those visiting supporters crammed into the Putney end will have found reassurance in the sight of Frank Lampard and, in particular, John Terry excelling. This was a throwback, a saunter on the banks of the Thames.

It was galling for Fulham to behold, their team wilting as the visitors imposed true pedigree on the occasion. Lampard was making his 600th appearance for Chelsea and oozed calm authority, even if he still seeks two goals to equal the club's goalscoring record. It was Terry who registered twice, a header in either half puncturing Fulham's resistance.

Rafael Benítez's team have leapfrogged Arsenal as a result and hauled themselves three points clear of fifth. A first away win in the league since mid-January was timely. This was the 60th game of their slog of a season, a derby played out while reports circulated in Spain suggesting intermediaries apparently acting on the European champions' behalf have made contact with Málaga's Manuel Pellegrini over the managerial position soon to be vacated by Benítez.

Not to be outdone, José Mourinho delivered a talk to coaches at his son's youth club, Canillas, in which he implied he would, indeed, be leaving Real Madrid at the end of the season. Games are being played and while both candidates are under consideration, firm offers will only be forthcoming once it is clear whether the London club have reached next year's Champions League. That annual pantomime will run for some time yet.

It seems like a distraction at present, while the team gasp under the weight of fixtures. This was more of the same for long periods, initially a leggy and slightly jaded display against opponents who clearly sensed fragility before a goal plucked from nowhere reminded everyone of their underlying class.

The contest had edged to the half-hour mark with Dimitar Berbatov imperious and Chelsea's threat only sporadic before David Luiz appeared to tire of all the pretty approach-play. He collected the ball some 30 yards out and with no opponent closing him down lashed a shot which caught the wind gusting around the arena and careered beyond Mark Schwarzer and into the top corner. It was a staggering goal to illuminate the occasion and pep their resolve. Half-time was close when Lampard belted a free-kick from distance and tapped into the same flight path, the ball thudding into Mark Schwarzer's chest and dribbling behind.

Fulham never recovered their composure from the resultant corner, Juan Mata eventually floating a cross to the far post where Terry leapt unchallenged between Sascha Riether and Philippe Senderos to power a header into the net and become the second centre half on the scoresheet. From nowhere, Chelsea were comfortable.

Such a scenario had been unlikely up until then. Fulham had forged the clearer opportunities when the game was goalless only for profligacy to blunt them at the last. The tone had been set in the opening attack when Riether – a player Martin Jol hopes to secure on a permanent basis from Cologne in the summer after an excellent season on loan in west London – crossed beyond Luiz only for Bryan Ruiz, alone in front of goal, to poke an awkward volley over the bar.

Giorgos Karagounis and Berbatov also went close, the visitors rattled to the extent that Branislav Ivanovic lunged two-footed at Mladen Petric near the corner flag and was fortunate to escape only with a caution.

It took an excellent save from Petr Cech to deny Urby Emanuelson's skimmed attempt, the shot flicking off Lampard before it was touched round the post. Thereafter frustration set in, with Ruiz booked for diving over Terry's outstretched leg – the forward had been thrown off balance but rather tumbled in stages – and the hosts' approach play ever more elaborate, Petric contriving to turn Senderos's goal-bound header over the top from under the bar.

Regardless, Chelsea always threatened a third on the counter and while Craven Cottage was still digesting Petric's baffling intervention, Fernando Torres flicked on a corner and Terry added his second from close-range. Fulham, forlorn while their neighbours celebrated, had been utterly deflated by the whole experience.

Guardian Service