Kerim Frei played 65 minutes as Fulham’s Under-21s earned a deserved 1-0 win over 10-man Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Friday evening.
Frei has made just six appearances for the First Team this season and hasn’t featured since the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round fixture at home to Blackpool after picking up a groin injury.
But he was named in Kit Symons’ XI against Chelsea, slotting in just behind lone frontman Cauley Woodrow, while there were also run-outs for Eyong Enoh and Simon Davies.
After the Whites had squandered a host of first-half chances, Lasse Vigen Christensen finally put Fulham in front just before the hour mark.
In a fiery last quarter of the game, Chelsea were reduced to 10 men late on when Lewis Baker was dismissed for scything down substitute Chris David.
And Christensen’s strike proved enough to secure Fulham a second Barclays Under-21 Development League Group One win in five days for Symons’ side.
On a bitterly cold evening in SW6, Fulham could have opened the scoring as early as the third minute when Frei intercepted a poor pass from Chelsea goalkeeper Jamal Blackman. Instead of shooting, the Turkish midfielder opted to square the ball to Woodrow but Alex Davey nipped in to clear.
Two minutes later, Blackman had to be alert to race out of his area and head the danger clear after Davies looked to latch on to a long punt from Jesse Joronen.
On nine minutes, Woodrow hit a half-volley inches wide after meeting Josh Passley’s cross, before the Fulham striker dragged a shot past the far post 30 seconds later after taking advantage of some poor Chelsea defending.
The Blues’ first shot of note came on 11 minutes, with Islam Ferez’ dipping drive from 20 yards being well held by Joronen, before an Alex Smith free-kick at the other end was tipped round the post by Blackman in a lively opening to the match.
Woodrow went even closer to opening the scoring on 25 minutes, meeting Smith’s cross from the left but seeing his header cleared off the line by Adam Nditi.
Davies dragged a shot wide three minutes into the second half after good work by Frei, before Smith made way for David as Symons made his first substitution of the evening.
Frei then jinked down the left before fizzing a cross across the face of goal, but Fulham were in front on 56 minutes when Davies’ pullback was sidefooted home from close range by Christensen.
Three minutes later, Frei saw a shot blocked from close range, with Passley rattling the woodwork on the hour mark after Davies had burst forward from midfield.
Davies made way on 63 minutes for Omri Altman and Frei departed the action shortly afterwards for Boumesca Tue Na Bangna, who also made a welcome return from injury.
Christensen was the next player to see a shot hit the crossbar after a first-time effort from just outside the box.
Chelsea’s task got even harder in the dying minutes when Baker was shown a straight red for a cynical foul on David, with the Fulham man forcing Blackman into a fine save late on as the Whites’ numerical advantage told.
Fulham hit the woodwork for the third time in the match when Enoh saw a shot clip the outside of the post in what proved to be the final action of the game.
Fulham: Joronen, Passley, Grimmer, Arthurworrey, Kavanagh, Davies (Altman 63), Enoh, Christensen, Smith (David 48), Frei (Na Bangna 65), Woodrow. Subs (not used): Grainger, Minkwitz.