Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho, both successful under Sarri at Napoli and brought to London at the behest of the manager, were on target as Chelsea took the points in this breathless derby against Fulham.
Jorginho, in particular, has suffered criticism. He was booed on as a substitute against Malmo in the Europa League and missed a penalty in the Wembley shootout which was eclipsed by Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted.
Arrizabalaga was back in goal for Chelsea at Craven Cottage and helped secure the points with a fine late save from Aleksandar Mirtovic.
Ryan Sessegnon thought he had pounced for an equaliser in stoppage time only to find the goal ruled out for offside, an extremely tight call.
Sarri’s team stay in touch with the top four and Fulham looked doomed, but happy at least to be playing once again in a way they enjoy under Scott Parker.
The home team, cheered off at the end, made a positive start with a flurry of early efforts. Cesar Azpilucueta blocked from Tom Cairney and Joe Bryan seized on the ricochet and fired wide from distance.
Parker was warmly greeted before kick-off and his one change to the team, a recall for Ryan Sessegnon, went down well. There was evidence, too, of the old fluency which was a hallmark of last season’s promotion campaign.
But this was their undoing before Claudio Ranieri took over from Slavisa Jokanovic, and they were painfully vulnerable on the break.
They threatened at one end and got the crowd on their feet and yet conceded far too many clear chances at the other end, which gave the game a pleasingly carefree feel, enhanced briefly by Kevin McDonald playing for 10 minutes with his ripped shirt whistling in the wind like the Incredible Hulk.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Rico 7.5; Odoi 6, Nordtveit 6, Ream 6, Bryan 6; Chambers 7, McDonald 6.5 (Anguissa 62 min, 6); Babel 6 (Ayite 71, 6), Cairney 6.5 (Vietto 80), Sessegnon 6.5; Mitrovic 7.
Goals: Chambers 28 min.
Bookings: Chambers, McDonald.
Subs: Fabri, Le Marchand, Christie, Seri.
Manager: Scott Parker 6.5
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 7.5; Azpilicueta 6.5, Rudiger 8, Christensen 7.5, Emerson 6; Kante 7.5, Jorginho 7 (Kovacic 68, 6), Barkley 6.5 (Loftus-Cheek 79); Willian 6.5, Higuain 6.5, Hazard 6 (Pedro 73, 5).
Goals: Higuain 20, Jorginho 31.
Subs: Caballero, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Luiz.
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7
Ref: Graham Scott 6
Att: 24, 900
It was as if they had decided to go out playing the way they like playing. Even if that means relegation from the Premier League, where the
Rico made saves from Hazard and Willian, and crosses fizzed around his goal.
Mitrovic went close with a dipping 25-yarder and Kepa saved from Cairney and Sessegnon and were on top when Sarri removed Jorginho.
The away fans cheered the change and then sang Jorginho’s name as he was replaced by Mateo Kovacic.
Fulham continued to threaten, Arrizabalaga denied Mitrovic late in the game and Parker has gone some way towards reclaiming the goodwill of the supporters in one move.
But the points went to Chelsea and the “sons of Sarri” can take the plaudits for a change.