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Palmer scores as Chelsea sink Fulham in a lackluster encounter

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The victory marks Chelsea's second win in the space of a week

Cole Palmer scored Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over west London rivals Fulham on Saturday as the inconsistent Blues recovered from their League Cup defeat at Middlesbrough.

Palmer struck a penalty late in the first half at Stamford Bridge to wash away the bitter taste of Chelsea’s stunning 1-0 loss to second-tier Middlesbrough in the semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

The League Cup defeat was only the latest setback in Mauricio Pochettino’s team’s difficult season.

Chelsea weren’t much more dynamic against Fulham, but Pochettino will be encouraged by the manner in which they grinded out their third consecutive Premier League victory.

After a 10-day holiday break, the Blues will have a chance to reverse their League Cup disadvantage when they face Middlesbrough in the second leg on January 23.
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Chelsea are still a work in progress in Pochettino’s first season, with his decision to field a predominantly youthful squad resulting in highs and lows.

In the circumstances, Fulham were ideal opponents for Chelsea to improve their spirits, as they had not won at the Bridge since 1979.

The clubs are only two miles apart in west London, but they have historically been light years apart in terms of success on the field.

Chelsea’s previous troubles had allowed Fulham to dream of a rare triumph on enemy territory, and Blues fans were clearly frustrated as passes began to go astray from their sputtering squad.

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That angst carried over to the football as Chelsea struggled to develop any rhythm, with Conor Gallagher’s errant strike from a distance exemplifying their difficulties.

Nicolas Jackson’s absence for Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, along with Christopher Nkunku’s recent injury, have reduced Pochettino’s attacking options.

Armando Broja was filling in for Jackson, but he missed a good chance when he headed wide from Enzo Fernandez’s cross.

Looking to capitalize on Chelsea’s struggles, Fulham launched an explosive break that culminated in Harry Wilson’s close-range shot, forcing a fine stop from Djordje Petrovic.
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When another Chelsea attack failed, Fulham fans insulted the hosts’ expensively assembled team with chants of “what a waste of money.”.

Despite their sluggish performance, Chelsea rallied and took the lead in first-half stoppage time.

Issa Diop gave away a penalty for a harsh challenge on Raheem Sterling, and Palmer stepped up to blast the ball past Bernd Leno.

The 21-year-old’s nerveless sixth successful penalty for Chelsea demonstrated why teammates called him ‘Cold Palmer’.

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Palmer, who joined Stamford Bridge from Manchester City in September, has nine goals, making him one of the few bright spots in the club’s dismal season.

Palmer drove forward with conviction and curled just wide early in the second half.

The Blues lost their way again as the half progressed, and Fulham striker Raul Jimenez headed over before trying Petrovic with a threatening low shot.

Gallagher hit the woodwork with a brilliant effort with the outside of his foot, but Fulham ended strongly, and only some last-ditch defending kept the Blues from suffering further humiliation.
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With the Blues just hanging on, there was some good news in the dying minutes as England left-back Ben Chilwell returned from a four-month absence due to a hamstring injury.
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