Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri hips praises on his team after beating Fulham 2-0 to bounced back from their first Premier League defeat of the season.
Chelsea dominated possession at Stamford Bridge and scored early through Spain forward Pedro but struggled to find their rhythm and looked vulnerable against their spirited visitors until substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek settled their nerves with a late second.
“After the 1-0 the players on the pitch had a very good level of application, attention, but without trying to kill the match,” said Sarri, who pulled his players in for one-on-one post-mortems after last week’s chastening 3-1 loss to Spurs.
“We needed to kill the match before (we did). But I think today we were a little bit tense.” “Today it was important to react,” he added.
“The team reacted really very well in the Europa League.
Today was more important, of course, and I think in the mind of the players there was only the result.
The home side, welcoming former manager Claudio Ranieri back to Stamford Bridge in the Fulham dugout, were quickly into their stride against their London neighbours and were ahead inside four minutes.
N’Golo Kante — publicly criticised by his manager for his positioning in the match against Spurs — was instrumental in the opening goal, dispossessing Jean Michael Seri in the middle of the pitch and feeding the ball to Pedro on the right side of the penalty box.
The winger stepped inside onto his left foot and fired the ball into the far corner – 1,000th home Premier League goal – Pedro’s strike was Chelsea’s 1,000th home goal in the Premier League — they are the third club to reach the landmark after Manchester United and Arsenal.
Chelsea dominated the remainder of the first half, with Sergio Rico saving smartly from Olivier Giroud shortly before half-time but they failed to convert their dominance into clear-cut chances.
Fulham started the match rooted to the foot of the table but lifted by last week’s victory in Ranieri’s first match as boss, which followed six straight Premier League defeats.
Ranieri made two substitutions for the second half, bringing on Floyd Ayite and Aboubakar Kamara for Stefan Johansen and Ryan Sessegnon.
Fulham, playing with more urgency after the break, twice went close to an equaliser through defender Calum Chambers.
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga kept out Chambers’ header from a corner then midway through the second half Kepa palmed away a powerful shot from the Arsenal loanee.
The home side had a chance to guarantee all three points when Rico could only palm an Eden Hazard deflected shot into the path of second-half substitute Alvaro Morata but he skewed the ball horribly with the goal at his mercy.
The Spain forward was spared further embarrassment when England international Loftus-Cheek finished a lovely intricate move by driving into the net from the right-hand side of the penalty area in the 82nd minute.
“We created some problems for them, (and had some) good chances to draw the match,” said Ranieri.
“In the end, when you change with some quality players, they can score a second.
But I’m satisfied with how we reacted, how we played, but now we want to improve.