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Chelsea break Premier League goal drought to sweep past Fulham as Mykhailo Mudryk finally scores his first

Fulham 0-2 Chelsea (Mudryk 18′, Broja 19′)

CRAVEN COTTAGE — For the first time since mid-October 2022, Chelsea sit above Fulham in the Premier League, even if only on goal difference.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side scored twice in an away game for just the third time this year. Mykhailo Mudryk finally scored his first Chelsea goal. Order, however temporarily, has been restored in west London.

But to fully appreciate just how important this win is to Chelsea, you have to start at the beginning.

Within 90 seconds of kick-off, Armando Broja was streaking goalwards, just green grass and fresh air between him and Bernd Leno. Was this it? Was the answer to Chelsea’s goalscoring woes a 22-year-old academy product who hadn’t started since November 2022?

What would be the hard part for most players looked oh-so easy. Broja shrugged past Leno, shaped to shoot through the scrambling mass of helpless bodies – and missed. He took out his driver for a six-yard putt.

This was a miss extraordinaire, a miss made art – closer to the Thames than it was the goal. It was utterly engrossing in its sheer inadequacy. The tone was set. Nothing had changed.

Eight minutes later, Mudryk did much the same. Having beaten two defenders, the Ukrainian almost impressively managed to find the spot Broja had in the Hammersmith End. It was happening again for the side who hadn’t scored from 45 shots in their past three league games.

But then, what can only be described as footballing alchemy occurred in west London. Moons and winds and fortunes shifted and aligned. Dominos sold their final pizza since Chelsea last scored a Premier League goal. God decided Chelsea’s attackers had probably suffered enough.

Moises Caicedo raked a projectile pass to Levi Colwill, lurking on the left touchline with intent. Colwill, still a centre-back by trade, then dinked a drooping cross high enough to evade Issa Diop entirely yet strike Mudryk’s midriff.

His touch was heavy, on a different day perhaps too heavy.

But now, it was just right. His left foot guided the ball between Leno’s legs and into forgotten territory for Chelsea. A knee-slide of Didier Drogba-esque proportions ensued to celebrate a desperately long-awaited first goal ten months after his mega-millions transfer.

Yet as with the old adage about London buses, having waited so long for one, two came along at once. A minute later, Tim Ream absent-mindedly passed to Cole Palmer, excellent on his first Premier League start for Chelsea.

Palmer attempted to play Broja in, but only succeeding in returning the ball to Ream. Yet in attempting to amend his error, the American could only clear the ball into the back of the net, via Broja.

This was instant redemption for Mudryk and Broja and long-deserved salvation for Chelsea.

Given the pressure put on Chelsea’s goalscoring record – the joint-second poorest in the league pre-game – the next 70 minutes somewhat faded into relieved obscurity for the visitors, and increasingly aggravated chaos for the home side.

In a quiet second half, Carlos Vinicius, the hero of this fixture last season, headed Fulham’s best chance over the bar on the hour mark. Enzo Fernandez, still unable to banish his own Premier League goalscoring demons, was denied at close range moments later. Robert Sanchez saved from Sasa Lukic at close range ten minutes from the end. It was Fulham who didn’t take their chances here.

Chelsea may genuinely believe their luck has changed now, a confidence which could prove fundamental with a devilish schedule lurking.

They can once more legitimately claim to be west London’s premier footballing establishment.

And more importantly than anything, they know how to score goals.

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