Palmer sinks Fulham to lift Chelsea gloom

Palmer sinks fulham to lift chelsea gloom0

Chelsea won 1-0 over west London rivals Fulham on Saturday, as the inconsistent Blues bounced back from their League Cup humiliation at Middlesbrough.

Palmer scored a penalty late in the first half at Stamford Bridge to avenge Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to second-tier Middlesbrough in the semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

That League Cup defeat was just the latest setback in Mauricio Pochettino’s side’s turbulent season.

Chelsea were no more exciting against Fulham, but Pochettino will be encouraged by how they grinded out a third consecutive Premier League win.

After a 10-day holiday break, the Blues will return to League Cup play on January 23 against Middlesbrough in the second leg.

Chelsea are still a work in progress in Pochettino’s first season, with his choice to go with a mostly young squad providing highs and lows.

Fulham were an excellent opponent for Chelsea to dispel the gloom, considering that they had not won at the Bridge since 1979.

The clubs are just two miles apart in west London, but their performance on the field has usually been light years different.

Chelsea’s previous troubles had enabled Fulham to dream of a rare triumph on enemy territory, and there was palpable displeasure among Blues supporters as passes from their sputtering squad began to go awry.

Chelsea struggled to find a rhythm on the field, with Conor Gallagher’s errant attempt from distance epitomizing their difficulties.

Palmer maintains his calm.

Pochettino’s offensive options have been hampered by Nicolas Jackson’s absence at the Africa Cup of Nations and Christopher Nkunku’s recent injury.

Armando Broja was filling in for Jackson, but he blew an excellent opportunity by heading wide from Enzo Fernandez’s cross.

Fulham made an explosive burst in an attempt to capitalize on Chelsea’s troubles, which resulted in Harry Wilson’s close-range shot forcing a fine stop from Djordje Petrovic.

When another Chelsea onslaught fizzled, Fulham supporters criticized the hosts’ expensively built squad, chanting “what a waste of money.”

Despite a sluggish start, Chelsea fought to grab the lead in first-half stoppage time.

With a harsh tackle on Raheem Sterling, Issa Diop surrendered a penalty, and Palmer stepped up to blast the spot-kick past Bernd Leno.

The 21-year-old’s nerveless sixth successful penalty for Chelsea demonstrated why teammates dubbed him “Cold Palmer.”

Palmer has been one of Chelsea’s few bright spots this season, scoring nine goals since joining from Manchester City in September.

Palmer drove forward with purpose and curled just wide early in the second half.

As the half progressed, Chelsea lost their way again, and Fulham striker Raul Jimenez headed over before testing Petrovic with a threatening low shot.

Gallagher struck the crossbar with a brilliant attempt using the outside of his foot, but Fulham ended well, and only some desperate defense prevented the Blues from suffering more humiliation.

Chelsea were just about clinging on as England left-back Ben Chilwell returned after four months out with a hamstring injury in the final minutes.

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