Apr 17, 2013, 6:55 PM EST
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.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:10 PM EST
Stoke City pulled off a huge shock at the Britannia, as they beat high-flying Chelsea 3-2 on Saturday thank to Oussama Assaidi‘s late winner. The winger on-loan from Liverpool smashed home a beauty in stoppage time to seal a magnificent win for the Potters and send them comfortably into mid-table. In a topsy-turvy affair, Chelsea…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:03 PM EST
Saints pin back City after terrific display from the home side at St. Mary’s:
Dec 7, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Liverpool pushed West Ham even closer to the danger zone, although the visitors’ own goals gave the Reds a hand.
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
Saints striker bags absolute stunner with mazy run and magical finish:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:56 AM EST
Watch on as the PL pays a fitting tribute to Mandela:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:52 AM EST
Newcastle grabbed an historic win at Old Trafford on Saturday, with David Moyes’ United looking utterly devoid of ideas.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Chelsea look to keep the heat up on Arsenal, will the Potters stop Mourinho’s men? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:34 AM EST
Both West Brom and Norwich could really do with all three points — will either succeed in grabbing them?
Dec 7, 2013, 9:26 AM EST
Can the Saints stop the rot after three straight defeats? Will City make it four wins on the spin? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:22 AM EST
Short on goals and short on wins, both sides will be looking for more than a drab draw out of this one.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:17 AM EST
Liverpool wants another dramatic victory at Anfield, but the struggling West Ham certainly won’t be eager to give it to them.
Dec 7, 2013, 8:20 AM EST
How to watch all the PL games live online or via the app:
Dec 7, 2013, 7:35 AM EST
Manchester United manager David Moyes waits too long to announce his match day squad, says veteran Rio Ferdinand.
Dec 7, 2013, 7:04 AM EST
Manchester United look to bounce back from last week’s defeat, and are hoping that the return of Robin van Persie will help make up for Wayne Rooney’s absence.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:24 PM EST
It appears that Arsene Wenger will remain a Gunner for at least three more years, with a contract extension reportedly near completion.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:39 PM EST
With injuries putting Robin van Persie on more and more of an island at Old Trafford, are troubling times creating a stir in the dressing room?
Dec 6, 2013, 9:58 PM EST
Cameras caught the main man of English soccer laughing and making a throat-slash gesture when England were selected into their devilish group.
Dec 6, 2013, 9:22 PM EST
Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales were all part of the 2009 MLS Cup winning side – and they are still on top of it all:
Dec 6, 2013, 8:46 PM EST
The Germans and Ghanans alike are ready to watch the Boateng brothers square off, and US nemesis Asamoah Gyan has vowed to escape into the knockout phase.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
Where to watch all the games from Week 15, right here:
- Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea: Assaidi’s screamer hands Potters massive win 0
- Southampton 1-1 Manchester City: Osvaldo’s wonder-goal pegs back Citizens 0
- WATCH: Daniel Osvaldo scores Goal of the Season contender, as Saints peg back Man City – Video 0
- Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle: Red Devils slip up once again 2
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- Video of Jermaine Jones’ terrific goal Saturday for Schalke (23)
- What US Soccer wants from the World Cup draw (23)
- 2014 World Cup Draw: USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues (21)
- Now that we know the U.S. opponents, which 23 players should Jurgen Klinsmann bring to Brazil? (19)