Fulham bewildered as Luiz thunderbolt lifts Blues into third

Fulham 0 Chelsea 3

Fulham bewildered as Luiz thunderbolt lifts Blues into third

Certainly Fulham didn’t seem to be paying attention when Luiz strode forward and struck an elegant, dipping strike from all of 30m to put his side ahead — or when Terry, back in the side after being left out of Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final team, headed home a second unchallenged at the far post and completed victory from close range after the break.

But Arsenal and Tottenham will certainly have noticed; because as City and United battled it out for the top two this crucial victory for Chelsea has given them a huge advantage in the race between the also-rans to earn a Champions League place next season.

The result makes Arsenal’s goalless draw against Everton on Tuesday look like a missed opportunity; because Chelsea are now one point ahead of Arsene Wenger’s side with a game in hand — and three clear of fifth-placed Tottenham. And what will infuriate Fulham fans — and perhaps those in north London too — is that it was all achieved without Rafa Benitez’s side needing to hit top gear.

For long periods in the first half Fulham were the more attractive, more progressive team and also enjoyed the bulk of the chances; but they still found themselves 2-0 down at the break and wondering how on earth it went so wrong.

Fulham could — and should — have been ahead in the opening minutes when Bryan Ruiz somehow failed to finish off a perfect cross from full-back Sascha Riether; and there were further opportunities for Giorgios Karagounis, John-Arne Riise and the sumptuous Dimitar Berbatov before Chelsea keeper Petr Cech did superbly to scramble away an effort from Urby Emanuelson.

But Chelsea were far more clinical on their rare sorties into Fulham territory and went ahead with a stunning 30m strike from defender David Luiz, who hit a shot that hung on the wind and then dipped beautifully into the top right-hand corner of Mark Schwarzer’s net.

If that wasn’t harsh enough on Fulham, they found themselves 2-0 down after 43 minutes; this time captain Terry heading home a ball from Juan Mata at the far post.

From that point on you always felt Chelsea were comfortable, although they received a huge slice of luck when Philippe Senderos’s header from a corner was heading for the net until it was inexplicably cleared off the line — by his own team-mate Mladen Petric.

Seconds later, however, it was 3-0 — this time Fernando Torres heading towards the top corner of the net and Terry making sure by nodding it over the line from close range in the 71st minute.

FULHAM: Schwarzer 6, Riether 6, Senderos 6, Hangeland 6, Riise 6 (Rodallega 67; 6), Ruiz 6, Enoh 8, Karagounis 7 (Frimpong 76; 6), Emanuelson 7, Berbatov 6, Petric 5 (Frei 82).

CHELSEA: Cech, 7 Ivanovic 6, Terry 8, Luiz 7, Bertrand, Ramires 7 (Mikel 75; 6), Lampard 6, Moses 5, Mata 7 (Ba 81), Hazard 7 (Oscar 69; 6), Torres 5.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

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