LONDON — Kai Havertz’s majestic brace tightened Chelsea’s grip on a top-four finish in the English Premier League as the Blues deepened Fulham’s relegation worries with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Germany forward doubled his league tally for the campaign with a goal in each half in an exemplary exhibition of play in the “false nine” role.
Fourth-placed Chelsea opened up a six-point gap on West Ham in fifth after its third win in four matches. West Ham’s game in hand is at Burnley on Monday.
Chelsea’s 18th clean sheet under Thomas Tuchel set the bedrock for another vital victory, with Real Madrid pitching up at Stamford Bridge for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. The teams are at 1-1.
Havertz was cast as immediate King’s Road royalty the moment he arrived in west London last summer in a big-money switch from Bayer Leverkusen, but this was the day the talented 21-year-old forward finally made his mark.
At times in this debut campaign, Havertz’s natural languid style jarred amid his protracted recovery from the coronavirus and his search for his Stamford Bridge niche.
But against Fulham, Havertz stood out with his movement off the ball, ability in possession, and calm finishing as Chelsea swatted aside Scott Parker’s game but limited Fulham.
Fulham’s fifth defeat in six matches left the team trailing Newcastle, which has a game in hand, by nine points with four games to play.
Chelsea cantered into an early lead thanks to a brilliant piece of play by Mason Mount in the 10th minute.
Mount brought down Thiago Silva’s raking ball forward in stunning style, then threaded a pass between two defenders for Havertz, who slotted home impressively.
Chelsea looked to have doubled its lead soon after, but Havertz was adjudged offside after tapping into the net.
Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy rebuffed Ademola Lookman, then Timo Werner wasted a fine ball from Hakim Ziyech by cutting the wrong side of Fulham’s defense.
Werner’s low cross then begged to be dispatched by Ziyech, but the Morocco forward went for placement not power and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola saved well at point-blank range.
Werner then spurned another smart ball from Ziyech, this time allowing the pass to drift too far across his body.
The Germany forward hit the target but Areola was never left in any danger with the save.
Werner did create Havertz’s second goal, though, his astute through-ball catching Fulham cold. Havertz cut the line expertly to stay onside and then rolled home a finish.