Apr 17, 2013, 6:55 PM EDT
As much as I’ve hammered Rafa Benítez since his arrive at Stamford Bridge, it’s only fair to confess my opinions are under review. No doubt, Chelsea have struggled for much of the Spaniards tenure in West London, but since buckling at St. Marys on March 30, Chelsea’s performances have ranged from convincing to understandable – both drastic improvements on the manic form that characterized Benítez’s first months.
Today was both convincing and, considering the opponent, understandable, with Fulham offering almost no opposition to Chelsea’s 3-0 West London Derby win. Never in this match, Fulham were quickly pushed deep into their defensive third, with the Blues eventually going in front though David Luiz’s 30th minute laser. An all too easy header just before half allowed John Terry to double Chelsea’s lead, and in the 71st minute, the captain cleaned up Fernando Torres’s flick toward goal to complete a disappointingly easy day for the Blues.
The disappointment’s born from the buildup, this being an alleged derby, though it’s been some time since Fulham-Chelsea carried a rivalry’s intensity. The proximity of the two West London clubs makes derby talk obligatory, but when one side comes out as flat and listless as Martin Jol’s, it’s difficult to see why we continue to consider this a rivalry. Just as passion can transcend geography to create compelling derbies like Liverpool-Manchester United, apathy can make proximity irrelevant. Particularly since Roman Abramovich made Chelsea one of the world’s strongest soccer brands, the Blues’ rivalry with Fulham’s become irrelevant.
So as Chelsea celebrated three goals from unexpected sources, they did so with the same intensity as they would against Reading, Wigan, or Norwich. And Fulham reacted like a struggling team on the wrong end of another bad result. There was no rivalry-driven pride at Craven Cottage.
But don’t let the lack of opposition detract from Chelsea’s performance. At various points this season (March 30, the most recent), the Blues have been unable to take advantage of opponents like this. Today, they asserted themselves early and, as a result, had one of their easiest matches of 2013. They played with the comfort and control fans imagined when their club added Eden Hazard and Oscar last summer.
It’s the kind of form that’s shone more often since Chelsea lost at Southampton, even if the bottom line results haven’t drastically improved. Over their last five games, the Blues have won three and lost two, though their losses are understandable. One was in Kazan, where Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat was all they needed to advance to Europa League’s semifinals. The other was this Sunday at Wembley, where Chelsea nearly came back to force extra time against a Manchester City team that’d played better than they had in months.
Against Fulham, Chelsea had no such obstacles, part of the reason they’ve vaulted back into third place. The Blues now sit on 61 points – one more than Arsenal and three better than Spurs, two clubs that play like London rivals.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Fernandez arrives from Napoli as Swans sign Argentine center back.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Following his alleged racist comments, leader of Italian soccer facing lengthy ban.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT
Arsenal to miss out on Carvalho, Nastasic, as rumors continue to swirl. Check out the latest gossip, here.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:28 AM EDT
Barcelona banned by FIFA from signing any new players from September 2014 to January 2016.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Spurs set to hand Red Devils duo escape route from Old Trafford?
Aug 20, 2014, 1:47 AM EDT
Portland victorious in CCL debut,while Club América affirmed their place as one of the competition’s favorites.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT
21-year-old striker may turn to the 2.Bundesliga to get his young career back on track.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
Injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for slumping Colorado.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT
James Rodríguez’s opener is pulled back in the 81st minute, sending the rivals to the Calderón even.
Aug 19, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Steaua Bucharest, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg earned first leg wins.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
Tesho Akindele won the league’s honor, leaving is with one question: How? Teammate Fabián Castillo was clearly FC Dallas’s (and the league’s) best player.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
A pair of Liverpool midfielders let down their owners, while Hull was the key to big, big scores.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Demba Ba had the gumption to try and score one of the earliest goals of all-time in Besiktas’ UCL match against Arsenal on Tuesday
Aug 19, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
Swimming with sharks, and knowing his fishing companions faced death, Kim Thomsen leaned on the fact that he wasn’t swimming alone.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer claims Marco Reus is headed to Manchester United… next summer.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT
Hours after apologizing for trying to force a move to Manchester United, Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is commenting on said move.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT
The MLSE boss has been good for Toronto FC, bringing in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, and is denying a report that he’s leaving town.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:24 PM EDT
Mackay’s hiring at Palace would be a reunion with sporting director Ian Moody, the latter also unceremoniously replaced at Cardiff
Aug 19, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is among the new names on the list.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Playing in the Championship club’s first two matches, both losses, Emerson Hyndman is being hailed as an ‘old head on young shoulders’
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