Mauricio Pochettino promised Chelsea will continue to show belief in their young stars after Mykhailo Mudryk scored his first goal for the club in their 2-0 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Armando Broja, making his first start since injuring his ACL in December, also netted as the visitors gave their most convincing performance yet of the manager’s reign and ended a run of three Premier League games without a goal.
Chelsea took the lead after 18 minutes when Mudryk chested down Levi Colwill’s expertly-flighted cross and nudged the ball past Bernd Leno as the Fulham goalkeeper advanced.
And within a minute it was two, Cole Palmer dispossessing Tim Ream who was careless with the ball at his feet and feeding Broja, who deflected the ball home off Ream’s attempted clearance.
It was a dominant first half from Chelsea with Palmer, making his first Premier League start for the club after impressing in the EFL Cup win against Brighton last week, making a critical difference coming deep to collect the ball and starting the visitors’ attacks.
Ian Maatsen, on at half-time in place of Mudryk, struck a post after the break as Pochettino’s side threatened a third, and it was not until 14 minutes from time that a lacklustre Fulham threatened a response when Robert Sanchez blocked Sasa Lukic’s close-range shot.
Pochettino pointed to the patience the club have shown in waiting for their expensively assembled but young side to come good, particularly Mudryk who finally broke his scoring duck nine months after jointing from Shakhtar Donetsk for £88million.
“The difference (tonight) is the result,” said the manager. “The performance was really good. First half I think we played really well, second half we controlled the game.
“I’m pleased for Mudryk, and for Armando. For Misha because he has scored his first goal in the Premier League and then for Armando, after a long period out he’s scored again. The competition is really good for the team.
“It’s about maturity, adaptation. We need to understand that young people need time, need to settle. Massive change for him when he arrived here. I think when you arrive in a team, it’s not easy to settle because there were too many young players that arrived in a team (that) was not solid.
“They need to add something to the team, to build something important. Always it’s difficult, but it’s about time and to have patience, to trust these guys and these young, talented players, and to build their confidence.
“It’s a massive job. It’s step by step. Sometimes people have not the patience, but for us it’s about being patient. Even when we were losing and when we didn’t win from the beginning of the season, we were calm and kept the belief.
“Now that we’ve won two games in a few days it’s (still) important to stay calm.”
It was the fourth game in a row in which Mudryk had started, having not been in the starting XI for any of Pochettino’s first five matches in charge.
He was withdrawn at half-time with what the manager said was an issue with his quad, but he is expected to be fit for Saturday’s trip to face Burnley.
“He played because he deserved it, and he showed in training that he deserved it,” said the manager. “He was really focused in training and had the confidence to go on the pitch and play.
“Normally it’s the player that needs to show us that we can trust in them.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva reflected on a game in which he felt his team lacked the required aggression as they fell to a third league defeat of the season.
“Disappointing result for us,” he said. “At certain moments, performance-wise as well. They started intense from the first moment, winning some individual challenges that gave the boost they needed.
“Our first half was not aggressive enough on and off the ball. We were sloppy in some moments. We did not bring the dynamic that we should. Even our first pressure didn’t work very well.”
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