Chelsea made it three Premier League wins in a row for the first time since October 2022 as Cole Palmer’s penalty guided them to a 1-0 victory over Fulham at Stamford Bridge.
The winning goal came in stoppage time at the end of the first half, the top scorer for Mauricio Pochettino’s side notching his ninth goal of the season after Raheem Sterling was tripped in the box.
However, the move had been started by a moment of Palmer genius, spotting a gap and threading a superb ball through the middle that drew defender Issa Diop into a clumsy foul.
Marco Silva’s visitors never truly looked beaten until the final whistle sounded.
Chelsea, though, defended doggedly in the final moments to breath genuine momentum into their season.
The first half began in a familiar pattern, plenty of possession for the hosts but little or no penetration in the final third. Sterling was busy down the left during the opening 15 minutes, Kenny Tete at right-back barring the way.
The only chance of those opening exchanges fell to Conor Gallagher, the captain lifting his shot a couple of yards over the bar from just outside the box.
Sterling opted for a different tact on 20 minutes, laying it off wide to Enzo Fernandez to cross. His centre was met by Armando Broja at the front post, who failed to get enough of a glance on the ball and thumped his header wide.
The best chance of the half, though, was Fulham’s. Willian fed Andreas Pereira overlapping on the left, who picked out Harry Wilson stealing away into space on the far side. Wilson hit it first time, looking to sneak it inside Djordje Petrovic’s near post, but the goalkeeper spread himself well, rebounding it away with his legs.
Chelsea’s goal in added time at the end of the half was not deserved on the balance of play, but the pass from Palmer to carve out the chance was sublime. Making eyes for a lofted cross, he instead slipped a reverse ball through the middle for Sterling, who in cutting in onto his left was tripped by Diop. Palmer did the rest from the spot.
Chelsea were seeking a fourth win from five in the league, the kind of points return they had not enjoyed since former boss Graham Potter’s early days in charge more than a year ago. They were, in truth, fortunate to lead at the break.
Sterling headed against the post from six yards out at the start of the second half after Fernandez’s cross had picked him out. Malo Gusto played a low ball for Broja at the near post, but he failed to get a touch and it was cleared by Tosin, as a rebooted Chelsea emerged after the break with renewed purpose.
Fulham took time to get going in the second half half but finally found some bite after 70 minutes, Raul Jimenez shooting low first-time at goal and drawing a save from Petrovic dropping to his right. Pochettino responded by sending on Ben Chilwell for his first appearance in nearly fourth months after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Gallagher struck the post with a superb curling effort off the outside of his right boot as Chelsea looked to kill the game off, then Willian just cleared the bar from a free-kick, Fulham refusing to lie down easy.
In the end, the clock ran out on them, as Chelsea’s resurgence under Pochettino rolled on.