By Blake Fogg
Chelsea shrugged off suggestions of a crisis by moving to the top Premier League table by beating Fulham 2-0 on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho’s men lacked creativity in the first half but goals by Oscar and John Obi Mikel after the intermission saw Chelsea win their third game of the season.
Chelsea hadn’t won in their last four matches in all competitions and could have been in real trouble early in the first half with Fulham striker Darren Bent missing a great chance.
Chelsea took the lead in the second through Oscar’s close-range goal in the 52nd minute.
Mikel sealed the victory off a corner and scoring his first Premier League goal in 185 appearances.
Mourinho made four changes after his side’s disappointing 2-1 home defeat to FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. Juan Mata and David Luiz were left out of the squad while Frank Lampard started on the bench.
Mourinho recalled Captain John Terry as well as Mikel, Ramires and Andre Schurrle.
Fulham Manager Marin Jol made three changes of his own, with former Chelsea player Damien Duff and Darren Bent being the major additions replacing the injured Bryan Ruiz (ankle) and Dimitar Berbatov (hamstring) respectively.
Fulham threatened first in the match when Steve Sidwell, another former Chelsea player, headed over. Samuel Eto’o flicked a shot wide at the other end but Fulham had the best opportunity to take the lead in the 13th minute.
Pajtim Kasami through ball split the Chelsea defense and sent Bent free on goal, but the Aston Villa loanee failed convert his one-on-one opportunity, shooting straight at goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea had a penalty claim not given shortly after. Sascha Reither pushed Eden Hazard from behind but nothing was given.
The Blues started to control the game afterward but their wealth of possession and several set pieces failed to materialize into anything but half chances until the stroke of half time.
Chelsea put together an integrate string of passes in the penalty area with the ball finding its way to Branislav Ivanovic. The Serbian saw his driving shot turned wide by goalkeeper David Stockdale.
Chelsea got ahead seven minutes into the next half with Oscar positioning himself perfectly after Fulham failed to clear.
Schurrle started the play with a nifty step-over before shooting from the left and Stockdale spilling the shot in front of him.
Fulham failed to clear their lines and Oscar banged in his effort from close range and to the delight of the home supporters.
Fulham had an opportunity to level two minutes later, but Sidwell couldn’t direct his header on target, while Hazard came close to add to the lead at the other end.
Fernando Torres replaced Eto’o soon after and nearly cashed in with flick header from a Chelsea corner, but Stockdale denied the Spaniard with a fine save.
But the resulting corner saw Mikel pouncing on Terry’s knockdown header to put the home crowd at ease against their neighboring rivals.
Kieran Richardson forced Cech to make a nice save late but Chelsea held on for an important three points and moving to the top of the league, while Fulham languish in the relegation zone in this young season.