Carlo Ancelotti believes Chelsea have emerged from their recent slump with today’s 2-1 victory over neighbours Fulham.
The Blues restored their five-point lead at the Barclays Premier League summit by scoring twice in two second-half minutes, through Didier Drogba and a Chris Smalling own-goal.
Zoltan Gera had given Fulham an early lead and Chelsea were poor until the final half hour when they finally overwhelmed their west London rivals.
Chelsea entered the match with a solitary victory from seven games this month and Ancelotti was delighted by his players’ response in adversity.
“This match didn’t come at a good time for us,” said the Italian. “We went behind and the most important thing is the reaction in the second half, which was fantastic.
“It was not easy to change the game but we showed great determination and willingness.
“With this performance we finished a difficult period for the team. This could be an important victory in the season because I’m very happy with the reaction of the team during a bad spell.
“We reacted as a team and not individuals. Fulham are not easy to play – they are well organised and score goals.
“I was not angry at half time because I was it was difficult in the first half. We played slowly and needed more concentration in midfield.”
At the halfway stage of the season Chelsea top the Premier League and remain in the Champions League, allowing Ancelotti to reflect on an encouraging start to his reign at Stamford Bridge.
“Yes I’m satisfied. It was not a good December for us but that month is finished and now we look forward to January,” he said. “We can do better and maintain our position at the top of the table.”
Fulham were outstanding in defence until they buckled before the Chelsea onslaught and manager Roy Hodgson, who absolved Smalling of blame for the own goal, felt his side deserved a point.
“It was a competitive game. We took the lead early on which meant we had something to hold onto,” he said.
“Subconsciously that tends to limit what you do offensively, especially when you’re defending as well as we did.
“My disappointment is that such a hard working performance which saw us defend so well against a rampant Chelsea team with many quality players didn’t get any reward.
“I’d like to have seen the players come off the pitch with at least a point to reward the quality of their play.”
Fulham lost their African Nations Cup bound defender John Pantsil to a twisted knee and Hodgson fears the Ghanaian could miss the rest of the season.
“Whether John goes to the African Nations Cup depends on what his scan results are and how long he’ll be out the game for,” he said.
“We’ll scan him here because at the moment his knee is sufficiently bad that we wouldn’t want to put him on a flight.
“When he’s fit enough to travel for Ghana to look at him he’s welcome to go. We’re not trying to keep him out of the African Nations Cup.
“I’m more concerned that he will miss the rest of the season because I always fear the worst when players twist their knees.”