(Reuters) – Goals in each half from Spain’s Pedro and homegrown midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek earned Chelsea a 2-0 win over southwest London rivals Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday.
N’Golo Kante dispossessed Jean Michael Seri in the middle of the pitch in the fourth minute and sent a perfectly-weighted pass to Pedro who stepped inside and fired low with his left foot into the bottom corner.
Chelsea buzzed round their neighbours’ goal for the rest of the half without finding a way through and bottom club Fulham, who won their first game under former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri last week, grew in confidence in the second half.
Fulham earned their best chances through the lively Calum Chambers who forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into two diving saves.
Yet their hopes were snuffed out in the 82nd minute when Eden Hazard fed substitute Loftus-Cheek and the England midfielder knocked the ball home.
The result lifted Chelsea above Tottenham Hotspur, who inflicted a first defeat of the season on Chelsea last week, and into third in the Premier League — at least until the Arsenal-Tottenham derby later on Sunday.
“Today we were a little tense, nervous,” Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said. “It wasn’t easy the days after Tottenham for me and the players. It was important to react. In the mind of the players there was only the result.”
Sarri left striker Alvaro Morata on the bench, but it did not look like goals would be in short supply after Pedro broke the deadlock so early in the match, with Chelsea’s 1000th home Premier League goal.
Yet even against the league’s most porous defence, Chelsea struggled to create a killer chance to make it 2-0.
Fulham’s resistance was broken late on when Loftus-Cheek found the net on his 50th Premier League appearance.
“We needed that second goal,” Loftus-Cheek said.
“They looked dangerous at times. When I get the opportunity I just do my best.”
The second goal killed off any hope Fulham had of a comeback, but Ranieri took the positives from his second match in charge.
“We made good decisions in a short time,” Ranieri said. “We had good chances to draw, but they scored the second. They have quality players, Hazard is amazing. I am satisfied by the performance, not the result.”