Chelsea are provisionally up to seventh in the Premier League table after a 1-0 win away at Fulham in Saturday's West London derby thanks to Mason Mount's solitary strike 12 minutes from time. Frank Lampard's men were superior to Scott Parker's side in most ways but almost had nothing to show for it until the final quarter of an hour at Craven Cottage. The hosts played an entire half with 10 men after Antonee Robinson's red card but ultimately Mount was able to make the breakthrough for the visitors.
Chelsea are now three points behind the European places on 29 points with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Burnley and Sheffield United to come in their next five matches while Fulham remain four points behind the Clarets in the relegation zone with a game in hand on most teams.
Ultimately, the England international made the difference on a day when it looked increasingly likely that Chelsea would come up short despite their attacking overhaul last summer. Olivier Giroud, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and later Timo Werner all failed to find a way past Alphonse Areola in the home goal. Mount eventually made the breakthrough for his second goal of 2021 after he found the back of the net against Morecambe in the FA Cup. That was the Englishman's first Premier League goal since late September in a 3-3 draw away at West Bromwich Albion.
11 - Mason Mount's opener was the 11th goal Chelsea have scored in the final 15 minutes of Premier League matches this season; no side has netted more in this time period in the competition in 2020-21 (level with Leicester City). Breakthrough. pic.twitter.com/WhAgFGwH6B— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 16, 2021
Against the odds, Fulham almost made it to full-time with at least a point and there was a period where it looked like Parker's men might even snatch the win with Chelsea being so wasteful. However, Mount got the winner to knock the wind out of the Cottagers' sails after a valiant effort with 10 men for the second half. Areola's goal weathered a bit of pressure and Chelsea saw a lot more of the ball than Fulham, with 68% possession, but the relegation battlers nearly pulled it off. If they can do similar against lesser sides, they will pick up points between now and the end of the season -- possibly enough to survive.
Chelsea should have won by more than Mount's goal, yet they were lucky to get that in many ways as they were so limited in attack. Werner continues to look a shadow of the player brought to Stamford Bridge from RB Leipzig while Ziyech, Pulisic and Giroud could not muster anything before the Germany international came on. The four attackers had three shots on target from 11 attempted, perhaps because over half of them were from outside the penalty area. With such domination of the ball, Lampard's men should be doing much better than scraping 1-0 wins away at relegation battlers while their front three are reduced to taking hope punts from distance.
It was a positive outing overall for Fulham, despite the defeat, with their second half performance deserving of great credit. Parker's men showed character and determination in the face of the sort of possession domination that you would expect against such a lavishly assembled squad with a man advantage. If the Cottagers can keep that level of application going into their coming games, they will start to win -- especially against the likes of Burnley, Brighton and Hove Albion and West Bromwich Albion.