Mauricio Pochettino promised Chelsea will continue to show faith in their young stars after Mikhail Mudrik scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Armando Broja, making his first start since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in December, also scored as the visitors produced their most convincing performance of the manager’s reign to end a run of three Premier League games without a goal.
Chelsea took the lead in the 18th minute when Mudryk collected Levi Colville’s clever cross and pushed the ball past Bernd Leno as the Fulham goalkeeper advanced.
And a minute later it was two: Cole Palmer dispossessed Tim Ream, who was careless with the ball at his feet, and fed Broch, who saved the ball after Ream’s attempted clearance.
It was a dominant first half for Chelsea with Palmer, who made his first Premier League start for the club following the impressive EFL Cup win over Brighton last week, making the difference by cutting deep to win the ball and start attacking the guests.
Jan Maatsen, who came on at half-time in place of Mudryk, hit the post after the break as Pochettino’s side threatened a third and only 14 minutes from time did a lackluster Fulham threaten to hit back when Sasa Lukic’s shot was blocked by Robert Sanchez. long shot.
Pochettino noted the patience the club had shown in waiting for their expensive but young team to get good, especially Mudryk, who finally broke his scoring duck nine months after his £88m move from Shakhtar Donetsk.
“The difference (tonight) is the result,” the manager said. “The performance was really good. I think we played very well in the first half, and in the second half we controlled the game.
“I’m happy for Mudryk and Armando. For Misha, because he scored his first goal in the Premier League, and then for Armando, after a long break, he scored again. Competition is really good for the team.
“It’s about maturity, adaptation. We need to understand that young people need time, they need to get comfortable. Huge changes happened to him when he arrived here. I think when you come into a team it’s not easy to settle in because there were too many young players who came into a team (that) wasn’t solid.
“They need to add something to the team, build something important. It’s always difficult, but it’s time to be patient, trust these guys and these young, talented players and build their confidence.
“This is a huge job. It’s step by step. Sometimes people lack patience, but for us the main thing is patience. Even when we lost and didn’t win since the beginning of the season, we were calm and kept faith.
“Now that we’ve won two games in a matter of days, it’s (still) important to stay calm.”
This was the fourth game in a row in which Mudrik started, having not started any of Pochettino’s first five matches.
He was withdrawn at half-time with a quadriceps problem, according to the manager, but is expected to be ready for Saturday’s trip to face Burnley.
“He played because he deserved it and he showed in training that he deserved it,” the coach said. “He was really focused on training and had the confidence to go out and play.
“Usually it’s up to the player to show us that we can trust him.”
Fulham manager Marco Silva spoke about a game in which he felt his side lacked the necessary aggression as they suffered their third defeat of the season.
“The result is disappointing for us,” he said. “At certain points it comes down to performance. They started strong from the start, winning several individual competitions which gave them the boost they needed.
“Our first half was not aggressive enough both with and without the ball. We were sloppy at some points. We didn’t bring the dynamics we should have. Even our first pressure didn’t work very well.”