Graham Potter pleaded with his Chelsea players to “stick together” after a shock 2-1 defeat to Fulham saw Blues striker Joao Felix sent off on his debut after a decisive mistake by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Potter’s troubled side crashed to a seventh loss in their last 10 games in all competitions after another display of babbling.
Chelsea fell behind with a goal from their former winger Willian in the first half at Craven Cottage on Thursday.
Kalidou Koulibaly equalized after the break, but Felix was sent off for a reckless spike with spikes on Kenny Tete.
Fulham were gifted their late-winning goal by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa, who made a mess of dealing with a cross that Carlos Vinicius converted to leave Potter facing further sacking talks just four months after he replaced the sacked Thomas Tuchel .
“It sums up where we are right now. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong,” Potter said.
“I was disappointed with the goals. We can do better than that. That’s what it cost us.”
“It’s a difficult time. We’re upset. I’m sorry for the fans and I’m sorry for the players.”
This week, Potter called managing Chelsea “the toughest job in football” after a turbulent period that is severely testing owner Todd Boehly’s faith in the former Brighton boss.
Chelsea languishes in 10th place, 10 points out of the top four, after their slump extended to one win in their last nine league games.
They have managed just four goals in their last eight games in all competitions and Potter desperately needs a win against Crystal Palace on Sunday to give themselves at least a bit of breathing space.
“We have to keep working. There is no other solution. We have to keep working, be together and try to get the three points,” Potter said.
Hampered by a debilitating injured list, Potter met with veterans Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic on Tuesday in an attempt to defuse the crisis.
But the patience of Chelsea fans is already wearing thin and losing to sixth-place neighbors Fulham was another blow to their hopes of avoiding sacking.
– ‘Another blow’ –
It was in keeping with Potter’s misfortune that Felix’s promising debut ended prematurely after his loan spell from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
“It was a forward tackle. There was no malice in that, but I understand why it was a red. It’s another hit. The hits just keep coming right now,” Potter said.
The 23-year-old Felix, who cost Chelsea an 11 million-euro ($12 million) loan fee, was one of four changes since the 4-0 FA Cup loss to Manchester City last weekend. of week.
Licensed to fend off Chelsea’s three-man attack, Felix’s pass found Kai Havertz and when the German’s shot was blocked, he sent the rebound to Lewis Hall, whose low shot was saved by Bernd Leno.
Picked up by Mateo Kovacic, Félix shot wide from the edge of the box, then volleyed over after Azpilicueta’s cross found him unmarked 10 meters from goal.
But Potter lamented terrible defending as Fulham took the lead on 25 minutes.
Hall surrendered possession and Chalobah was unable to clear properly before Willian unleashed a powerful pass that deflected Trevoh Chalobah as he streaked past Kepa off the wrong foot.
Potter was pale-faced on the bench as Fulham fans taunted him chanting “Stamford Bridge is falling down” and “you’ll be sacked in the morning”.
Chelsea were level two minutes after half time when Mason Mount’s free-kick hit the post and bounced off Koulibaly, who stabbed just over the line before Leno could save.
But even then, Potter’s luck wouldn’t last as Felix saw red after needlessly launching himself into a high tackle that slammed into Tete’s shin.
There was an even more ignominious contribution to Chelsea’s fall from Kepa in the 73rd minute.
Kepa completely misjudged the flight of Andreas Pereira’s cross, allowing it to fly over his head towards Vinicius, who headed into the empty net as Chelsea defender Thiago Silva shouted at the hapless goalkeeper.