LONDON – Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga regained his spot in Chelsea’s starting lineup on Sunday as the Blues prevailed 2-1 over Fulham, which did not have its best start in the post-Claudio Ranieri era.
After the controversy he sparked by refusing to be replaced in the final minutes of the English Football League Cup final against Manchester City, Kepa was relegated to the bench during the 2-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur.
But he started against Fulham and rewarded coach Maurizio Sarri’s decision by putting on a good performance that helped the team earn a much-needed win.
It was Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain who opened the scoring 20 minutes into the first half on a close-range touch, making the most of a cross into the penalty area by Spain central defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Eight minutes later, an unmarked Calum Chambers drew Fulham level as he put home a cross by Dutch midfielder Ryan Babel.
It took Chelsea only three minutes to retake the lead, this time for good, on a curl by Italian midfielder Jorginho, who connected on a pass by Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard.
The defeat spoiled the debut match of interim coach Scott Parker, who was appointed on Feb. 28 to replace Ranieri, who had led Leicester City to the Premier League title against all odds during the 2015/2016 season.
After the win, Chelsea’s 56 points put the team in the sixth spot of the Premier League table, while Fulham remains in the 19th and second-to-last spot with 17 points, 10 points away from safety.
This was Fulham’s fifth defeat in a row, having lost to Crystal Palace, Manchester United, West Ham and Southampton heading into Sunday’s match.
Earlier in the day, Watford beat Leicester City 2-1, handing the visiting team its fourth defeat in its most recent five Premier League games.
English striker Troy Deeney gave Watford the lead just five minutes into the game on a header, connecting a set piece by Spain forward Gerard Deulofeu.
With 25 minutes to go before second half stoppage time, England striker Jamie Vardy notched the equalizer, capitalizing on a pass by Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans.
Two minutes into second half stoppage time, however, English striker Andre Gray scored the game-winning tally.