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Fulham 1-3 Chelsea Prem 28 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Sunday 02nd March 2014, 2:47 PM
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Jason Burt at Daily Telegraph

Fulham (0) 1 Chelsea (0) 3

This was a first for Jose Mourinho. He did not speak at all to his players at half-time. Not a single word. Such was his low opinion of their stunningly flat performance. It was the first time, he later said, he had ever felt moved to behave like that during his long, illustrious, enlivening managerial career.

But then Mourinho always retains that capacity to surprise; ever the showman. "It was silent. Like that," he explained. "Normally I give them two or three minutes for them to advise, to clean or change boots or shirts.

"After that they know that I will start talking. They were there, ready and waiting for me, but I was not ready for them. I decided not to speak because, if I started to speak about the first-half, I'd need more than the 10 minutes of half-time. I decided not to speak, they showed they were very intelligent."

Who gave the team-talk? "I left. I don't know," Mourinho said, adding that he had gone and stood outside until the players were called back to the pitch.

"Yes (it was the first time I've done that), in Chelsea, for sure. In my career, perhaps also. I haven't had many first halves like this one. Very, very bad."

Actions speak louder than words and Mourinho's behaviour provoked a response with Chelsea gaining the victory that, suddenly, takes them six points clear of Manchester City, having played two games more, a gap that could grow to nine before City play again in the league, and four points ahead of Arsenal who have played the same number of matches.

It felt decisive and Fulham, the league's bottom team, will desperately hope it is not decisive for them also.

A German was victorious in Felix Magath's first home game in charge but it was André Schürrle who took the honours - scoring a hat-trick and showing the "cold blood", as Mourinho put it, that he expects in front of goal.

It was only the third hat-trick by a German in the Premier League (after Jurgen Klinsmann and Fredi Bobic, back in 2002 for the latter) and there was a chill also from Magath when strangely asked whether he had congratulated his countryman. "I send André congratulations," he said. "But it was unnecessary."

There is hope. "I cannot expect us to win against the leading team in the Premier League," Magath reasoned.

"No one expected us to ... there is hope. We played well for the first-half and we need to do that for 90 minutes and we will win."

But it will be back to the training ground for Fulham's players who engineered their own downfall - as much as Chelsea raised their game with Eden Hazard the standout performer despite Schürrle's hat-trick - through some woeful defending.

They will also fret about the condition of captain Brede Hangeland who departed during the first-half and was taken to hospital, apparently concussed.

Magath identified Hangeland's absence as crucial to the eventual collapse; Mourinho leaned more towards his players waking from a stupor in which they "walked" through the first-half as they struggled to recover from having played less than 72 hours earlier in Istanbul in the Champions League.

Mourinho was right. Maybe it was the lactic acid in his players' legs.

Maybe it was Magath's steely organisation of Fulham. But for 45 minutes this contest was a turkey direct from Turkey. It meandered, almost lifeless, sleepy by the Thames in the bright spring sunshine.

Something had to give - as Mourinho demanded.

There was a fine save, from a Fernando Torres cross-shot, by Maarten Stekelenburg and a bizarre tangle between the two players after the Fulham goalkeeper blundered, but nothing else.

And then Schürrle scored. He flicked on Branislav Ivanovic's throw-in and set off at pace to run onto Hazard's clever chip forward. But it owed much - as did his other two goals - to Kieran Richardson switching off and suddenly Schürrle was bearing down on goal to easily beat Stekelenburg with a low shot.

"I have seldom seen such a goal," said an incredulous Magath. "He ran 90 metres without any contact. I have never seen that before."

He was shaking his head again soon after. This time Hazard, who had already executed a wonderful 'rabona' cross (where the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg) to deliver a headed chance to Torres, which he fluffed, again created space to superbly slide a pass through to Schürrle.

He took it in his stride and sent his low shot back across Stekelenburg and into the net.

The hat-trick came when a goal-kick by Petr Cech was headed on by Torres and Richardson was again caught out, watching, allowing Schürrle to run in behind and fire a shot into the corner. It was that routine and it was over.

Fulham clawed a goal back when, from a corner which Cech allowed to run across his goal, Darren Bent turned the ball back for Johnny Heitinga to poke it over the line, but it was barely a consolation. Fulham's plight is increasingly acute with just 10 games to go and a four-point gap to claw back. They have improved dramatically but the fear is where will the goals come from? Also can they really hope to overhaul three of the teams above them?

Chelsea, meanwhile, are top of the pile and it is starting to look ominous for their rivals.

"I'm there now but if City win the two matches they're top," Mourinho argued. "The gap is a fake advantage.

"We have four points more than Arsenal, the same number of matches. I'm there for now, but if City win the two matches they're top. We have four points from Arsenal and Liverpool, but not yet on City."

It was another showman's line. Just like that half-time stunt.

Fulham (4-4-2): Stekelenburg 5; Riether 4, Heitinga 5, Hangeland 5 (Burn 16, 6), Richardson 4; Kasami 5 (Holtby 62, 6), Sidwell 6, Parker 6 (Karagounis 80), Dejagah 6; Dempsey 6, Bent 5.
Subs Stockdale, Riise, Kvist, Rodallega.

Booked : Dejagah, Kasami

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) : Cech 5; Azpilicueta 6, Terry 6, Cahill 7, Ivanovic 5; Matic 6, Ramires 7; Hazard 8, Oscar 6 (Mikel 78), Schurrle 8 (Luiz 87); Torres 5 (Ba 79)
Subs Schwarzer (gk), Cole, Lampard, Willian.

Booked : Ramires

Referee:  Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: 24,577

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