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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Maurizio Sarri pleased with Chelsea 'reaction' after victory over Fulham

Goals from Pedro and Loftus-Cheek earns the London club all three points at Stamford Bridge

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, right, celebrates after scoring Chelsea's second goal in the 2-0 win over Fulham. Reuters 
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, right, celebrates after scoring Chelsea's second goal in the 2-0 win over Fulham. Reuters 

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said he was pleased with his team's reaction to their first Premier League defeat of the season, bouncing back to beat local rivals Fulham 2-0 on Sunday.

Chelsea were thrashed by Tottenham Hotspur in their previous outing, the 3-1 scoreline flattering the west London side, but they returned to winning ways courtesy of an early Pedro goal and a late finish by Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The home side dominated possession at Stamford Bridge and scored early through Spanish forward Pedro but struggled to find their rhythm and looked shaky until substitute Loftus-Cheek settled their nerves with a late second.

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Sarri enjoyed a dream start to his tenure in England but a chastening loss to Spurs last week prompted the Italian to admit his side have "a lot of problems" to solve. The former Napoli manager was more satisfied following the win over Fulham, but believes there is still some way to go.

"Today was about the result. We gave more attention to the defensive phase to win the match," he told Sky Sports. "It was a very good reaction. Now we have to start to improve and play our football in a better way."

The home side, welcoming former manager Claudio Ranieri back to Stamford Bridge in the Fulham dugout, were quickly into their stride and were ahead inside four minutes.

N'Golo Kante - publicly criticised by his manager for his positioning against Spurs - was instrumental in the opening goal, dispossessing Jean Michael Seri in the middle of the pitch and feeding the ball to Pedro on the right side of the penalty box. The winger stepped inside onto his left foot and fired the ball into the far corner.

Pedro's strike was Chelsea's 1,000th Premier League goal - they are the third club to reach the landmark after Manchester United and Arsenal.

Ranieri made two substitutions for the second half, bringing on Floyd Ayite and Aboubakar Kamara for Stefan Johansen and Ryan Sessegnon. Fulham, playing with more urgency, twice went close to an equaliser through defender Calum Chambers.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga kept out Chambers' header 10 minutes after the break before the loose ball was cleared off the line by Pedro. Then midway through the second half Kepa palmed away a powerful shot from Chambers.

Chelsea sealed all three points when England international Loftus-Cheek finished a lovely move by driving into the net from the right-hand side of the penalty area in the 82nd minute.

"It was a tough game," Loftus-Cheek told Sky Sports. "Fulham have a new manager and are looking more solid. We needed that second goal, they looked dangerous at times. When I get the opportunity I just do my best."

Another defeat does little for Fulham's hopes of survival, but Ranieri was encouraged by what he saw from his team.

"We wanted to play football but we made mistakes and against big champions you pay everything for that," the Italian told BBC Sport. "In the second half we changed system and maybe we deserved to draw the match.

"I am satisfied with how my players tried to make good decisions on the ball. I was happy to be 1-0 down at half-time, I changed it and we played better."