Fernandez makes debut as Chelsea held by Fulham

- colombogazette.com

British record signing Enzo Fernandez made his Chelsea debut but could not help his new side claim only their second win of 2023 as they were held by Fulham at Stamford Bridge.

Argentina midfielder Fernandez completed a £107m move to the Blues from Benfica three days ago and Graham Potter opted to hand him an immediate start.

He made a solid impression and almost enjoyed a dream debut when his curled effort flew just wide of the post in the second half.

Kai Havertz also went close before the break when his lobbed effort from Hakim Ziyech’s superb pass clipped the woodwork before the ball was cleared off the line, while debutant David Datro Fofana had a shot cleared off the line late on after showing great control to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

But overall Chelsea did not do enough to earn the win as they again struggled to create real goalscoring chances, finishing the game with just three shots on target.

Fulham fully deserved the point after a superb defensive display and move up to sixth in the table, three places and two points above Chelsea.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly spent big during January, with the £288m outlay eclipsing the £270m spent in the summer, to ensure Potter has the players to push for a top-four finish in the second half of the season.

The biggest of the purchases was Fernandez. The World Cup winner has enjoyed a meteoric rise since moving to Benfica from River Plate for £8.8m last summer and has been bought by Chelsea to strengthen their midfield.

He provided a hint of what is to come from him against Fulham, topping the stats for most touches (59) and most tackles (five) than any other player in the first half, and came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock with his shot from outside the box in the second half.

Fellow January arrivals Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke and Fofana also featured in the game and while they had varying degrees of impact, Chelsea’s long-running issue in front of goal was once again laid bare.

It took the hosts well over an hour to manage a shot on target, with the Blues – who started the game without a traditional striker – falling well short in the final third.

Fofana suggested he could improve that during his short time on the pitch, superbly rounding the goalkeeper late on before his goal-bound effort was cleared by Tim Ream, but they have now scored just two goals in their last six matches – a statistic that needs to improve quickly if they are to move higher up the table.

Fulham have been exceptional since the World Cup, winning more games than any other side in the Premier League, and this performance highlighted why they are a serious threat for a finish in the European places.

Marco Silva’s side were disciplined in their shape, frustrating the hosts as they struggled to find a way through the defence, and also carried a threat in attack themselves.

A bit more conviction from Willian and Bobby De Cordova-Reid with their shots in the second half and they may have come away with the win, but this was a very solid point that keeps the Blues below them in the table. (BBC)

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