Joao Felix’s bright Chelsea debut ended with a late lunge and a red card as the loanee’s Blues debut was a microcosm of the Graham Potter tenure in a 2-1 loss at Fulham at Craven Cottage on Thursday.
Former Chelsea star Willian had given Fulham a halftime lead but Kalidou Koulibaly had the Blues level after the break and Felix showed instant chemistry with Kai Havertz.
But Felix went in hard and late on Kenny Tete in the 58th minute, and Graham Potter’s Chelsea misery continued when Carlos Vinicius snapped home an Andreas Pereira cross late for the win.
Fulham’s victory boosts it sixth in the Premier League with 31 points, six more than 10th-place Chelsea.
The Blues have played one more match than Fulham, but they’ve won just one of their last nine games in all competitions. Fulham has five straight in all competitions, beating Palace, Southampton, Leicester, Hull CIty (FA Cup), and now Chelsea.
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Chelsea’s injuries in attack joined by Felix red
Fulham’s having a magnificent season but Chelsea controlled this match on the whole. The Blues’ list of injured attackers, however, continues to complicate things.
Injuries to Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling helped inspire Chelsea’s loan of Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid and he looked just the tonic over most of his 57 minutes on the pitch.
He wasn’t lifted for fitness or injury, however; Felix’s super late, studs-up challenge means Chelsea won’t have their new toy for a while.
It’s a shame, too, because Chelsea had racked up more than 2.00 expected goals as Felix was joined by Kai Havertz in a tantalizing young duo.
The Blues had all the big chances in the game as Fulham’s goal came on Willian’s deflected effort — the longtime Chelsea man did not celebrate his opener.
Carlos Vinicius, a former Tottenham man himself, did celebrate his late goal that boosted Fulham up 2-1 and came as another ex-Londoner in Bernd Leno played very well between the Spurs’ sticks.
This was a good effort from Fulham. While the Cottagers continue to keep things interesting late in their close games, close wins build character.
Marco Silva’s men put forth plenty of his fire on the pitch, and they did it without Aleksandar MItrovic. The double-digit scorer will try to cool off Newcastle at his former home this weekend.
Stars of the Show
Chelsea hosts Crystal Palace at 9am ET Sunday, while Fulham visits Newcastle at the same time.
Graham Potter’s reaction: Joao Felix red warranted, frustrated for fans
“We responded well but the red card changes the game. We could do better than we did on their goal and that’s what cost us. Really disappointed to lose,” Graham Potter said after the game. “There’s a reaction from the side and it’s a forward’s tackle, shall we say, and there was too much malice in it. I understand why he’s sent off. It’s another blow. The hits just keep coming at the moment. That’s how it is. He was really good and you could see his quality in the game so it’s doubly disappointing for us.”
“It’s tough. I feel for the supporters and the players and everyone at the club. We have to just keep going. We have to keep working. There’s no other solution, move to the next match and try to get three points.”
Willian goal video: Deflection helps Fulham in front
Kalidou Koulibaby goal video: Senegalese cleans up rebound
Joao Felix red card video: Bright start undone by late blades
Carlos Vinicius goal video: Back in front!
How to watch Fulham vs Chelsea live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 3pm ET, Thursday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Fulham are flying high after three-straight wins over the festive period and there is a very impressive resilience about the squad Silva has created. Of course, Mitrovic is the main man up top and will be sorely missed in this clash, but they have so much quality in midfield and attacking areas with summer signings Joao Palhinha, Andreas Pereira and Willian making a big impact. Also, Bernd Leno has been excellent in goal. Most people expected Fulham to go down this season so they’re now playing with house money and are full of confidence. Special things can happen when teams are in the kind of situation, and mood, the Cottagers find themselves in right now.
Chelsea are feeling the opposite of special. They have been hit hard by injuries, look lackluster in attack and questions are starting to fly when it comes to whether or not Graham Potter was the right hire. Todd Boehly has said he will give Potter plenty of time to sort things out but Chelsea’s squad don’t seem to be excited by the brand of football he is asking them to play. What is their philosophy? How will they hurt opponents? None of it is clear right now.
In-form players to keep an eye on
Mitrovic continues to score goals galore but he’s missing this one through suspension so Carlos Vinicius is likely to start up top. Pereira, Palhinha and Willian are winning the ball back and will be aiming to get the ball to Vinicius in dangerous areas. USMNT duo Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson have been excellent all season long and Leno has provided some real confidence as Fulham have improved massively in defense.
Chelsea have no players in good form but youngster Carney Chukwuemeka did play extremely well when he came on against Manchester City.
Fulham team news, injuries, lineup options
Mitrovic is suspended due to yellow card accumulation so Vinicius should start up top. Shane Duffy and Neeskens Kebano remain out, while Manor Solomon made his long-awaited return from injury in the FA Cup win at Hull and having him around will be a big boost.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) January 12, 2023
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic both joined Chelsea’s growing injury list as N’Golo Kante, Reece James and Wesley Fofana are getting closer to returns. Ben Chilwell, Armando Broja, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Edouard Mendy remain out, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is battling through a back issue. At this point Graham Potter still has a lot of international players to choose from and he needs the likes of Jorginho, Mason Mount, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech to stand tall.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 12, 2023