x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Mourinho silence at half-time may have spurred Chelsea to win

London club rebound from 'worst performance' in first half to beat Fulham in Premier League clash.

Jose Mourinho claims he did not utter a word to his Chelsea players at half-time. Tal Cohen / EPA
Jose Mourinho claims he did not utter a word to his Chelsea players at half-time. Tal Cohen / EPA

LONDON // An Andre Schurrle hat-trick saw Chelsea stretch their lead in the Premier League on Saturday.

Germany international Schurrle scored three times in 17 second-half minutes as Chelsea won 3-1 at Fulham and a 1-0 loss for Arsenal at Stoke City left Jose Mourinho’s side with a four-point lead over their London rivals.

At Craven Cottage, new Fulham manager Felix Magath was overseeing his first home game and he almost saw his side take an early lead when Clint Dempsey headed wide from close range.

However, after Fulham goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had saved from Fernando Torres just before half-time, Schurrle made the breakthrough in the 52nd minute when he ran through to score from a lofted Eden Hazard pass.

Hazard teed up Schurrle for his second goal in the 65th minute before Torres released the former Bayer Leverkusen man for his third goal four minutes later.

Victory extended Chelsea’s lead to six points over Manchester City, who have two games in hand, while Fulham, who replied through Jonny Heitinga, remain four points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.

“At half-time, I told them nothing,” said Chelsea manager Mourinho.

“Nothing, not a word. I walked in, then I walked out. I don’t know if anyone else gave a team talk. The second half was a great reaction to the worst performance of the season.

“We have four points more than Arsenal. The gap to Man City is a fake advantage. If they win their games in hand, they’re top of the league. We’re behind them.”

Unlike City, who tackle Sunderland in Sunday’s League Cup final, Arsenal do not have the consolation of any games in hand on Chelsea after their defeat at Stoke.

Wenger had Mesut Ozil back in his squad after injury, but he saw his side beaten by a 76th-minute Jonathan Walters penalty after Laurent Koscielny had been penalised for handball.

“It is not slightly worrying, it is a big worry for us to lose a game like that. It’s a massive setback,” said Wenger.

“In a game like that, we didn’t produce the performance we wanted. To win a title when you are expected to perform, you have to perform. It’s as simple as that.”

sports@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE