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.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT
The Toronto FC midfielder and U.S. international was fined for his harsh comments regarding the refereeing in Toronto’s draw with Chicago.
Sep 23, 2014, 5:49 PM EDT
Anfield played host to a match that saw two extra-time goals and a penalty shootout that went 15 rounds before the Reds could claim their place in the fourth round.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
The Serbian club’s supporters were seen waving a banner displaying an anti-Semitic phrase during their Europa League match against Tottenham.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT
Altidore is off and running for the 2014-15 season, watch his goal.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
UEFA has already ruled — based on previous offenses — that CSKA’s match against Bayern Munich next week will be played in an empty stadium.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
What would Lampard want? Hard to tell from the weekend’s goal celebration or lack thereof?
Sep 23, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
You do get the feeling they had to do a bunch of work to find people who failed to recognize Dempsey, if only because of the interviews that made the final cut.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:42 PM EDT
The possibilities for juicy upsets aren’t dancing through the slate of third round matches, but there’s plenty to look forward to…
Sep 23, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
Ghana national teamer and Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan has called a press conference to refute non-sensical claims that he killed his friend to gain magical powers.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Anfield has been Liverpool’s home since 1892, and the new construction is slated to finish in time for the start of the 2016/17 season.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
Oh, the challenges that await a man altering another man’s power rankings.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT
Hope Solo advocates have been angered by some columns claiming she shouldn’t be playing, while a national pundit gives his take on the story
Sep 23, 2014, 8:09 AM EDT
Bradley Wright-Phillips, you may now step forward to collect your prize of Internet-based high-fives.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT
It’s hard to imagine the new head safety measures won’t pass quickly, and reports say they could be in effect by October.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Newly-promoted Paderborn is shocking the Bundesliga and providing quite the show in the process.
Sep 22, 2014, 11:28 PM EDT
It was a rough weekend for Americans in England, but outside the country things a little more enjoyable.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
The full debut of Men In Blazers graced NBC Sports Network tonight with an assist from Adam Richman.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT
Despite making just sixteen league appearances the last three years, the Gunners manager says Diaby should be commended for his perseverance.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
Seattle’s lethal striker is set to cap the best year of his career with a new deal and a raise.
Sep 22, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
The 30-year-old hasn’t been in the Argentinian side since 2011 when he missed a crucial penalty in a shootout with Uruguay.
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