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Palmer Sinks Fulham To Lift Chelsea In London Derby

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Palmer Sinks Fulham To Lift Chelsea In London Derby

Cole Palmer fired Chelsea to a 1-0 win over west London rivals Fulham on Saturday as the inconsistent Blues bounced back from their League Cup embarrassment at Middlesbrough.

Palmer converted a penalty late in the first half at Stamford Bridge to erase the bitter taste from Chelsea’s shock 1-0 loss to second-tier Middlesbrough in the semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

That League Cup calamity was just the latest disappointment in a troubled season for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

Chelsea were hardly much more dynamic against Fulham, but Pochettino will take heart from the way they ground out a third successive Premier League victory.

After a 10-day winter break, the Blues will have a chance to overturn the League Cup deficit when they return to action against Middlesbrough in the second leg on January 23.

Chelsea are still a work in progress in Pochettino’s first season, with his decision to go with a largely youthful team inevitably producing highs and lows.

“The first half was really tough but we played really well in the second half. We deserved our victory, we were the better team,” Pochettino said.

“People suppose that Chelsea should be in a different position, but we are in a realistic position that we deserve because we weren’t clinical enough.

“We’ll get what we want. We are in a process to build and fighting to do our best.”

Fulham boss Marco Silva claimed Chelsea defender Malo Gusto should have been sent off for a first half foul on Willian that only earned a booking after a VAR check.

“We have to talk about the red card for Gusto, it was clear. In 10 of those moments, nine times it is a red card,” he said.

In the circumstances, Fulham were ideal opponents for Chelsea to lift the gloom, given they are without a win at the Bridge since 1979.

The clubs are separated by just two miles in west London, but they have traditionally been light years apart in success on the pitch.

Chelsea’s recent struggles had allowed Fulham to dream of a rare victory on enemy turf and there was audible frustration among Blues fans as soon as passes started to go astray from their spluttering team.

– Palmer Keeps Cool –

Nicolas Jackson’s absence on Senegal duty at the Africa Cup of Nations and Christopher Nkunku’s latest injury have diminished Pochettino’s attacking options.

Armando Broja was deputising for Jackson, but he wasted a good chance when he headed wide from Enzo Fernandez’s cross.

Looking to capitalise on Chelsea’s woes, Fulham launched an incisive break that ended with Harry Wilson’s close-range effort forcing a good save from Djordje Petrovic.

Despite their lethargic display, Chelsea rallied to take the lead in first-half stoppage time.

Issa Diop conceded a penalty with a rash challenge on Raheem Sterling and Palmer stepped up to smash the spot-kick past Bernd Leno.

It was the 21-year-old’s nerveless fifth successful penalty for Chelsea showed why team-mates have nicknamed him ‘Cold’ Palmer.

With nine goals since signing from Manchester City in September, Palmer has been one of the few bright spots in Chelsea’s troubled campaign.

“We believe in him, even when he didn’t score with the three big chances in Middlesbrough. He has the quality to play,” Pochettino said.

Driving forward with intent, Palmer curled just wide early in the second half.

Chelsea lost their way again as the half wore on and Fulham striker Raul Jimenez headed over before testing Petrovic with a dangerous low strike.

Conor Gallagher hit the woodwork with a clever effort using the outside of his foot, but Fulham finished strongly and only some last-ditch defending stopped the Blues suffering fresh indignity.

With Chelsea just about holding on, there was good news in the closing minutes when England left-back Ben Chilwell made his return from four months out with a hamstring injury.

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