SW6 derbies are typically not the most fiercely contested in England, but this one had to be, with both sides desperate for all three points for very different reasons. But one man clinically decided the destination of the points in just 16 second-half minutes.
Andre Schurrle. The German, who has taken his time to settle in to life at Stamford Bridge since his £18m arrival from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, excelled at the Cottage as he produced his most impressive performance in Chelsea blue to date. His quick-fire hat-rick proved enough to extend our lead to four points as Liverpool moved above Arsenal in what was a hectic day in the Premier League.
Prior to Schurrle’s goal-scoring exploits, it had been an arduous away assignment down the Thames Path as Fulham proved to be a tough nut to crack during the opening 45 minutes. Clear-cut chances were few and far between, with Jose Mourinho’s men producing an uninspired display. Excusable, given their Turkish ventures in mid-week and the unfavourable scheduling of this match.
Fulham ‘keeper Maarten Steklenburg possessed the look of a figure who had flown from Australia on Friday as his lumbering antics came close to costing his team early on. Minutes after Fernando Torres came inches from making the most of the Dutchman’s error, the Spaniard went close again. After Steklenburg had demanded too much time for his in-play goal-kick, Torres pounced and as pushing ensued, instead of squaring the ball into the path of Oscar, he opted to shoot wide.
As Felix Magath strolled down the tunnel at the Cottage, delighted with what he had seen, no doubt to deliver an encouraging half-time team-talk, it could hardly be any more contrasting to the one Mourinho had planned. Jose simply did not say a word to his players. Enough motivation it was, as the second period was to prove.
Eden Hazard, who had been quiet up until then, burst into life, brilliantly releasing Schurrle who latched onto his pass and slotted home under the despairing Steklenburg.
Hazard began to make a significant contribution to the match. The Belgian excellently nutmegged Fulham right-back Sascha Riether before standing up a superb cross with a wonderful rabona for Torres, who was beaten to the ball by Kieran Richardson. What an assist that would have been.
As “There’s only one team in Fulham” belted out from the away end, Hazard combined with Schurrle once again to deadly effect. The former Lille wing-man sublimely, almost casually, played in his German counter-part who finished clinically. After a disheartening start to his maiden season in the Premier League, the 23 year-old is certainly staking a claim for himself to become our number nine, a position in which he flourished at Bayer Leverkusen.
Only five minutes later, his hat-rick was complete courtesy of his accomplished finish past Steklenburg which followed Torres’s intelligent through-ball. Johnny Heitinga’s late goal slightly dampened an excellent second-half performance as his stabbed finish denied us a clean-sheet. Yet, our overcoming of the many adversities we were confronted with is surely the mark of champions.
After returning to London on Thursday following our Champions League exploits in Istanbul, the players did not train ahead of this derby encounter and instead focused on recovering to play again less than 72 hours later.
Jose made two changes from the side which drew at Galatasaray as Nemanja Matic, who was ineligible for the mid-week encounter, and Oscar replaced Lampard and Willian respectively.
Our back four, despite conceding a needless goal late on, were generally solid. Schurrle and Hazard were revitalized after the interval while Oscar, as confirmed by Mourinho, seemed to be suffering from fatigue.
Samuel Eto’o was omitted from the 18-man matchday squad with some claiming his absence was a cause of a rift between Jose and the Cameroon international following the boss’s recent disparaging comments about his age.
Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard, Torres.
Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, David Luiz, Mikel, Lamaprd, Willian, Ba.
Thanks for the report, Ahmed. I didn’t see the game so it’s good to have a proper summary. From what I’ve been reading here and elsewhere it sounds as if this was one of those games Hazard won almost on his own, despite someone else scoring a hat-trick. He’s showing himself to be that sort of player. Whatever happens this season — and I *still* think City are the best team in the league and will be champions — we should be delighted, and grateful, that we’ve got him, and got him young.
I hear Schurrle [sorry, can’t find umlaut on this keyboard] is now also saying that Mourinho has made him change his game and his physical conditioning to fit the team. We’re already seeing the results of Hazard doing the same. There’s been less noise about Azpilicueta but surely [schurrli?] he must be another instance of the Mourinho genius: who else can havebeen responsible for telling him he could play in a completely new position, and knowing he’d do so brilliantly (if it wasn’t for Hazard’s genius Dave would be my player of the season so far).
Another season or two of Mourinho taking very good players and making them great, and we’ll be witnessing something really very special. Now, if only he can do it with Lukaku next season … (Though actually I was a bit disturbed byLukaku’s interview a few weeks ago when he announced that ‘it was time’ he played in the Champions’ League. Made him sound like a bit of a twat, to be honest, and if that’s a reflection of his real attitude then he’s unlikely to turn out a Jose player.)
No problem. Agree with you mate. Hazard was a tad quiet in the first-half, but brilliant in the second. Sure, Azpilicueta’s development and impressive displays have gone under the radar (I was impressed by him during Rafa’s reign too).
Apart from the general joy abounding at a win in a derby game (Fulham usually turn up against at home), it was great to see a young player get his first hat-trick. I like Schurrle and believe he has the minerals to make a real contribution. It must be difficult in your first season, when in and out of the team, to achieve a consistent level of performance. Here’s hoping he can produce more of that class of finish because as we’ve all said, the team seems to be a tad wasteful in front of goal.
If you were following the abuse the young German was getting on Twitter during the first half, some of it from surprising quarters I have to say, with the general consensus bieing that he should be subjected to the halftime hook, you probably hurried into the kitchen as the third goal went in, slipped a couple of slices of “grief-bacon” between two doorsteps of bread, added some pickles perhaps and settled down with a glass of Weissbier to watch the rest of the game, glad to be munching on a tasty sandwich, while many among the commentariat forced down large dry chunks of humble pie, or “made the pilgrimage to Kanossa” as our German friends might say (in German of course).
I don’t take too much notice of what people say during games as I myself am prone to utter ridiculous nonsense due to the stress of it all. But Saturday did make me smile.
Haha, very similar to me!
I’ll be honest, I was calling for Willian to replace Schurrle at HT
Guess that now you’ll just have to stop calling him Shirley…
Like many others, I don’t believe this is a title winning side – Man City are too good at slaughtering the points-fodder, to not make up their current deficit. What I am most intrigued to watch unfurl, is this team as it’s developing. This is still a team that is in the making, and whilst we have got most of that development done, there is still some to do, to make this a truly Jose team. Lukaku is still coming back, and whilst he’s unlikely to instantly settle in and be the match – winning striker we want, he is quite good, and still very young.
I reckon we should sit back and enjoy, and if we win something this season, bonus, but if not, we can still enjoy watching this team develop into something very special.
Absolutely. A working progress – we should challenge for honours strongly next season, but we’re giving it a good go this season too!
All down to Jose
Incidentally, someone in the comments section over at the Guardian newspaper pointed out how much Schürrle looks like Robert Prosinecki (for those who remember Prosinecki). Once the resemblance is in your head it’s hard to get rid of it. The photo at the top here isn’t helping.
Has anybody else noticed that we manage to keep, by and large, a squad with a very large amount of players who play in the same general area – that band behind the front three – generally quite happy?
Juan lost his place for tactical issues, so, aside from De Bruyne, we’ve managed to keep everyone pretty happy, and Shurrle’s strong performance, in spite of being on the bench for most of the season is a testament to that.
Hopefully Salah can have a similar amount of patience, and contribute similarly, because this would be very useful, seeing as we compete on several fronts.
Seems like a long time ago now (lots happened this week) but my recollection was of super cool finishing for three and then being over keen to grab a fourth when the perfect performance would’ve been to play someone else in to make it four, but he’s still quite young and all that.
I thought we looked strong and positive throughout, but that purple patch was a little unexpected, most welcome, though. Nice shake-up of the squad too.
Long way to go still, but looking good.
Fuerher schurrle did us proud,loved the excellence in executing,perhaps he is more suited to the Pedro like role, he could be the difference in title race when me have misfiring strikers.
Well, that was good. Great performance, in spite of Spurs looking so fragile.
Nice for Ba to not only get an appearance – albeit, a small one – but take advantage of it, with a couple of goals, no matter how much of it was the fault of the Tottenham defence.
You think? I thought we were pretty dreadful. Least earned 4-0 thrashing ever. Still, I’ll take it. The Spuds’ comedy capers in the second half were certainly hugely enjoyable.