LONDON: Andre Schuerrle scored a second-half hat trick as Chelsea extended its lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 victory over bottom-place Fulham on Saturday.
After a sluggish first-half performance, Chelsea overpowered its west London neighbor to capitalize on Arsenal losing 1-0 at Stoke and go four points clear at the top.
Eden Hazard, as influential as ever in the Chelsea midfield, created Schuerrle's first two goals and striker Fernando Torres set up the third.
Having created so much danger before the break at Craven Cottage, Fulham only managed to score a 74th-minute goal through Johnny Heitinga.
But it was just a consolation, and there was no way back for Fulham in the first home game under Felix Magath, its third manager of the season.
The hosts had needed Clint Dempsey to find the target when presented with a header in the 3rd minute before his two-month loan from the Seattle Sounders ends.
It was the under-pressure Fulham looking more dangerous in front of goal, with Chelsea creating little. Dempsey came close again after 20 minutes, bringing down Kieran Richardson's cross but the American forward was unable to get a shot in.
From Chelsea, the goal threat amounted to Ramires shooting wide, and Oscar whipping in a free kick that Sidwell headed clear.
But on the stroke of halftime, Torres saw a fierce shot from a tight angle pushed over by Maarten Stekelenburg.
And Fulham would be left regretting not making the most of its opening in the first half, when its defense was cut through with ease seven minutes after the break.
From inside his own half, Hazard picked out Schuerrle, who headed the ball past Dan
Burn, ran forward and slotted into the net. What had been a finely balanced contest between top and bottom swung in Chelsea's favor.
Chelsea should have been further in front in the 59th but the quality of Hazard's well-placed cross was not matched by Torres' finish with the striker heading wide.
Luckily for Hazard, Schuerrle was on the end when he slipped the ball through in the 65th and the Germany midfielder slotted it low into the net.
Torres found more success as the creator, heading down Cech's goal kick before knocking the ball through for Schuerrle to score again with ease in the 68th.
It wasn't a comfortable end for Chelsea, though, as Fulham threatened to stage a comeback, but all they could produce was Heitinga tapping into an open net after Darren Bent knocked the ball across the goal.