Chelsea tightened their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as Kai Havertz’s double guided them to a routine 2-0 win over Fulham at Stamford Bridge.
Havertz had only scored twice in his previous 24 Premier League appearances in his first season following a high-profile move from Bayer Leverkusen.
But he showed his class against relegation-threatened Fulham in Saturday’s clash, a goal in each half sending Chelsea six points clear of fifth-placed West Ham, who face Burnley on Monday.
Fulham are nine points adrift of safety with four games to play and will be all but relegated if Newcastle United defeat Arsenal on Sunday and Burnley overcome West Ham.
After a bright start by Fulham, they were quickly undone by some brilliance from Mason Mount, who controlled a long ball superbly before sliding in Havertz to break the deadlock as a deflected shot beat a helpless Alphonse Areola.
Havertz had the ball in the net again but from an offside position, and Chelsea had Edouard Mendy to thank for preserving their lead as Ademola Lookman was denied for an undeterred Fulham.
But only Areola stopped Fulham from having a mountain to climb as he produced a tremendous stop after Werner collected another excellent Mount pass and squared for Hakim Ziyech.
More goalkeeping heroics came at the other end on the stroke of half-time, Mendy displaying his reflexes to keep out Ola Aina’s deflected half-volley.
The significance of that save was illustrated just over three minutes into the second half as Havertz put Chelsea in complete command.
He played an almost nonchalant one-two with Timo Werner, strolling into the box to roll the ball past Areola and push Fulham further towards a return to the Championship.
What does it mean? Blues get the balance right
Thomas Tuchel conceded in the lead up to the game that it may be difficult for Chelsea to get the balance right with this fixture sandwiched between both legs of their Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
Despite some scares, there rarely looked like being a chance of Chelsea slipping to a damaging defeat and, if they do not win the Champions League this year, they should qualify for it again after taking control of the top-four race.
Timo makes it 10
Werner may have been criticised for his miss in the 1-1 draw in Madrid, but he has had a significant influence for Chelsea in his debut season.
His assist for Havertz’s second took him to 10 assists in all competitions. With 11 goals to his name, he is the first player to register double figures for both goals and assists in all competitions in his debut season for Chelsea since Eden Hazard in 2012-13. He is the fifth Premier League player to do it this season, joining Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min, Marcus Rashford.
Writing on the wall for Fulham
Fulham are winless in their last 55 away games in which they have trailed at half-time, last winning at Manchester City in 2009. Havertz’s second ended any hope of a turnaround and their fate looks sealed.
Chelsea, with an away-goals advantage over Madrid, will look to finish the job and reach the final on Wednesday before facing potential opponents Manchester City in the league three days later. Fulham do not play again until May 10, when their relegation could be confirmed by Burnley.
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