Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Warshaw: “Chelsea may not be firing on all cylinders quite yet, but even in third gear and without the inspiration of John Terry, ruled out with back spasms, they snuffed out everything their injury-hit nearest rivals could throw at them – then struck late on with a match-winning double blow.”
The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “Mourinho played the narrow three of recent vogue, ahead of Makelele. But only Robben held his position on the left, while Essien and Lampard could not resist dropping deeper to pick up the ball. This caused Chelsea to stutter, and explained why Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko were anonymous.”
Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: “With an important saving tackle early in the second half and two goals later on, one might say that Frank Lampard played a captain’s game. Yet it took a very long time for Chelsea to find the edge over a brave Fulham side that, by and large, made light of all their missing elements, and were perhaps ill-fated to go behind to a penalty.”
The Independent, Jason Burt: “Jose Mourinho brushed aside the concerns over the anaemic form of Andrei Shevchenko and Ashley Cole, the worries over the spasms in John Terry’s back, which may mean he misses Wednesday’s Champions’ League tie against Levski Sofia, and Chelsea’s stubbornly uninspired football. Instead he hit home one unerring truth. His team are top of the Premiership.”
The Times, Tom Dart: “While [Michael] Brown’s scampering, snapping style typified the Fulham determination that for so long counterbalanced Chelsea’s superiority, sympathy for him should be limited after he followed up his lamentable challenge on Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season by treading on Ashley Cole’s ankle.
“As far as I’m concerned it was just another tackle,” Brown said. And the Black Death was simply a nasty case of the sniffles.”
- Another three points. It wasn’t a great performance but given that Fulham were intend on stifling the game and would have been happy with a draw, a 2-0 victory was a good result. Earning three points when not at your best wins titles.
- Frank Lampard. He didn’t put in a vintage display but you can’t argue with two goals. He had the balls to take a penalty after missing four of his last five, and put the game beyond Fulham with a trademark strike late on. He also made a couple of crucial tackles. He’s still not back to his best, though.
- Salomon Kalou. The young Ivorian literally changed the game. A 57th minute substitute, he earned the penalty after getting the better of Liam Rosenior down the left, who stumbled at the crucial moment and decided to use his arm to stop Kalou’s cross. He was also involved in the build-up to Lampard’s second goal. Impressive overall.
- Michael Essien. He wasn’t as influential as he has been in previous games this season, but in a packed midfield he and Claude Makelele did well to counter Fulham’s tough approach.
- John Terry’s back injury and Khalid Boulahrouz’s illness highlighted Chelsea’s lack of cover in central defence. Losing Robert Huth and William Gallas during the transfer window might come back to haunt the team in coming months. Saying that, Paulo Ferreira did a great job as Terry’s replacement. Terry, who looked to be in a lot of discomfort as he made his way to the dug-out, is travelling to Sofia for Wednesday’s Champions League game after treatment from the England osteopath.
- Andrey Shevchenko. Not bad as such, but the Ukranian is still to find his feet in the Premiership. He had a great opportunity to score when a blocked Kalou shot fell to him but failed to beat Antti Niemi. It’s only a matter of time.
- Michael Brown. Fulham’s combative midfielder got away with another dangerous lunge/stamp which could have ended Ashley Cole’s season. Reports this morning suggest the FA won’t intervene after referee Mark Halsey insisted that he had already judged the incident (Halsey’s attempt to appease Chris Coleman after the Fulham manager criticised his performance?). Brown has now got away with two career-threatening challenges this season after a two-footed lunge on Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford was only punished with a yellow card. It’s likely to be third time unlucky for one opposition player this season.
Man of the Match
Frank Lampard. Salomon Kalou nearly got my vote because of the impact he had on the game.
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