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Show-stealing Schurrle fells Fulham


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Andre Schurrle scored a sixteen-minute hat-trick to hand Chelsea a comfortable London derby win over struggling Fulham - at the same time as extending their Premier League lead to four points.

With supposed title chasers Arsenal succumbing to a surprise loss at Stoke City, the stage has been set for a late surge to the league championship as José Mourinho's men moved clear of their London rivals thanks to Schurrle's treble.

The German winger cut a peripheral figure in a disappointing first half, but it was through his explosive combination play with Belgian magician Eden Hazard that the Blues were able to overcome a stoic, determined Fulham side that was looking to impress on new manager Felix Magath's home bow.

Schurrle's first came just seven minutes after the interval as he clinically slotted beyond the advancing Martin Stekelenburg, and he again showed conviction just after the hour mark to double Chelsea's lead.

Petr Cech's hoof upfield was then neatly flicked on by the industrious Fernando Torres, allowing Schurrle to smartly finish to complete his impressive treble - and whilst Fulham did pull back a consolation goal that their first half showing had warranted, the Blues' magnificent performance after the break will leave few in doubt of their serious title credentials.

The result is all the more impressive after a below-par performance prior to the break, with many players seemingly struggling from the typical hangover following the cross-continental trip to Istanbul for Wednesday's draw with Galatasaray.

But through that explosion of dynamism from the German international and fellow midfield man Hazard, the Blues now entertain a four-point lead over Arsenal, who may slip down to third should Liverpool overcome Southampton this evening. With Manchester City taking part in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley tomorrow, they will resume Premier League commitments under extreme pressure, needing to win their brace of games in hand.

The one blot on Mourinho's copybook will be John Heitinga's late consolation to deny Petr Cech the clean sheet that would have put him in the lead of the race for the Premier League golden gloves, but the ease and speed with which the Blues moved through the gears this afternoon will please the Portuguese, no doubt.

In a lacklustre first half, the best the Blues could conjure was a Fernando Torres that Stekelenburg fabulously saved late on. After a couple of terrible clearances, the Dutch keeper had looked shaky, but that save at least allowed his side to enter level at the break. The best the hosts could conjure was a half-chance for former Blues midfielder Steve Sidwell, but he volleyed well over at the back post.

Whatever Mourinho said to his players during the break certainly fired them up, with Schurrle at the heart of everything good about the Blues' much-improved second half showing.

The former Bayer Leverkusen man first saw a looping effort deflected over in the half's opening exchanges, but he was not left waiting long in his attempts to find the breakthrough. A delightful surge and reverse pass by Hazard opened up the space for the German to exploit, and his cultured finish beyond Stekelenburg was the goal the Blues' impressive start to the half merited.

Hazard then took centre stage as he first teed up Torres with an incredible rabona-style cross, only for the Spaniard's effort to be deflected wide. Unperturbed, the Belgian continued to threaten and recorded his second assist of the afternoon with a gorgeous slide-rule pass that enabled Schurrle to finish with aplomb.

Just four minutes later, the hard-working Torres - unfortunate not to have scored, having produced one stunning save and seeing another effort somehow deflected wide - flicked on Petr Cech's goalkick, allowing Schurrle to complete his hat-trick with consummate ease.

Fulham managed to make the scoreline look a shade more respectable in the glorious West London sunshine when Heitinga converted his first for the club from Darren Bent's cut-back, but that goal failed to take the gloss off of an important win for Mourinho's men.

Next up for Chelsea is the small matter of another London derby clash, this time at home against Tim Sherwood's resurgent Tottenham. With no home league win over Spurs since 2011, Mourinho will know that with the stakes higher than ever, another three points is a must as the Blues juggernaut ominously rumbles on.

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