Last updated on .From the section Premier League
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard says his side “can’t think everything is solved” after labouring their way to a second Premier League win in seven games against 10-man Fulham.
Antonee Robinson was sent off late in the first half for Fulham for a dangerous tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta.
Mason Mount – who earlier hit the bar – proved the match-winner with a half-volley after Alphonse Areola flapped at Ben Chilwell’s cross.
Ten different players had shots for Chelsea, but they were wasteful in front of goal.
The win takes Chelsea up to seventh, while Fulham – who had drawn their previous five league games – are four points from safety.
“A month ago we were flying high, but since then we’ve struggled,” Lampard told BBC Sport. “It’s a challenge even a man down.
“Maybe a bit [confidence affecting his players], that’s normal in football, but every team are having phases of form. Within that you get individuals short of form. We’ve got talent at the top end and it’s my job to sort that out.
“Perfection is not an easy thing to get. I won’t say I was blown away with the performance. There were lots of bits I was happy with, but we won’t get too ahead of ourselves.”
Can result help Chelsea kick-start season?
Chelsea went top of the table on 5 December when they beat Leeds. This was only their second victory in the league since then – and they sit seven points off Manchester United, having played an extra game.
Boss Lampard talked about “the experience and personality of” Olivier Giroud and Antonio Rudiger when explaining their places in starting XI – and spoke of the need to “kick-start” their season.
The result came eventually, albeit not with a stellar performance.
Giroud and Chilwell both missed the target with volleys, while Hakim Ziyech had a shot well saved before Mount hit the bar.
Rudiger had a header tipped wide, Ziyech went close with a shot from the left wing and Giroud flicked an effort wide at the near post.
It looked as if the goal was never going to come before Mount finally converted with a well-hit low finish.
Substitute Timo Werner had a glorious chance to end his Premier League goal drought – going back to 7 November – late on but slotted wide at the end of a counter-attack.
Robinson red card costs Fulham
Robinson’s dismissal came during Fulham’s best spell of the game – or rather at the end of it.
Three of their five first-half shots came in the five minutes before the USA wing-back’s mistimed tackle on Azpilicueta. Some disputed whether the red card was merited, but in the modern era it was dangerous enough to justify a sending off.
It was a disastrous three minutes for Fulham because Ivan Cavaleiro had just missed their best chance of the game when, unmarked on the penalty spot, he fired over from Kenny Tete’s pass.
“The longer the first half went on we came into it. It was a great chance for Cavaleiro – that needs to go in,” boss Scott Parker told BBC Sport.
“I’ve not seen it [the red card] again. In real time I didn’t see it. I want my players to play on the line – to be committed and aggressive. But if he’s crossed it he needs to look at that.”
They ended up defending for most of the second half – with only 23.2% of the ball – although they did have chances. Harrison Reed and Aboubakar Kamara forced saves and Cavaleiro had a shot blocked by Thiago Silva.
Just when it looked like they were going to make it six Premier League draws in a row, Areola failed to deal sufficiently with Chilwell’s cross and Mount pounced.
“I thought defensively we were fantastic. You still want to be a bit of a counter-threat,” said Parker.
“In the second half, you’re playing the clock a bit – we tried to hold on but it wasn’t to be. But I’ve nothing but admiration for my team – they were superb to a man.”
Chelsea visit Leicester City on Tuesday, while Fulham host Manchester United the next day (both games at 20:15 GMT).