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Fulham 2-2 Chelsea


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Fulham 2 - 2 Chelsea FC

December 28 2008, Premier League, Craven Cottage, London


Frank Lampard scored twice, but Chelsea lost further ground in the Premier League title race.

Liverpool threw down the gauntlet after demolishing Newcastle 5-1 at Saint James’ Park, with captain Steven Gerrard finding the net twice. Four points behind their Merseyside rivals at kick-off, Chelsea’s second successive draw away from home means the Blues are now three points off top spot, and with three games in hand, Manchester United will surely close the gap between themselves and the top two teams.

The result is a frustrating one for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men, who conceded twice to set pieces – first from a Simon Davies free kick, before Clint Dempsey scored his second of the match from a corner in the dying seconds. Frank Lampard’s poacher’s finish, followed by a low free kick had put the visitors 2-1 up, and having come from behind, a repeat scoreline of last season’s corresponding clash look odds-on.

Chelsea remain unbeaten away from home this season and have not tasted defeat away in the league since December 15, 2007, when they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, but will feel aggrieved not to have taken three points from this London derby. Perhaps more concerning for Scolari, is the fact he has yet to triumph against a London club during his tenure at Stamford Bridge, and with Manchester United the club’s next league fixture, he will need a more assured defensive performance if the club is to challenge for the title.

The opening exchanges belonged to Chelsea, with Lampard, Bosingwa and Didier Drogba all fashioning chances. The Ivorian’s chance was perhaps the best, but after spinning away from his marker, his shot fizzed wide of the goal. Lampard stung Schwarzer’s hands with a dipping effort, and Bosingwa too brought the keeper into play, but his shot lacked conviction.

Typically, against the run of play, it was Fulham who opened the scoring. Dempsey collected Davies’ free kick, and poked it beyond Cech at his near post to put the home side ahead. Craven Cottage erupted; the home support jubilant, but Chelsea were not prepared to go down without a fight, as Bosingwa shot wide.

Drogba then shot across the face of goal after brilliantly making his way into the Fulham box, but his effort from a tight angle went wide. Anelka – introduced as a substitute due to an injury sustained by Florent Malouda early on – looked to make an immediate impression as his drive stung Schwarzer’s palms. Moments later, the Fulham goalkeeper, signed from Middlesbrough in the summer, tipped Lampard’s goal-bound strike over. The effort was viciously struck, and the Australian did well to stop the Chelsea midfielder’s shot.

Lampard again struck from distance, after Ricardo Carvalho returned from injury to replace Brazilian centre back Alex, who went off injured. Carvalho – out of action since October – immediately acquainted himself with Fulham’s forward line, as he tenaciously tackled and rushed the hosts.

Chelsea went in behind at the break, but with Scolari’s half time team talk still ringing in their ears, Lampard restored parity. Drogba burst into the box, causing a sense of confusion, and Lampard stroked home from close range to score his second goal in two games.

Drogba then demonstrated his class when he rolled his marker before entering the area, and his fierce left footed drive left the Chelsea fans inhaling sharply, but his effort was well over the bar. Craven Cottage sighed in relief as one, but Chelsea were clearly dominating the game.

Joe Cole wasted an excellent chance to put his side in the lead, but his volley from just inside the area was too close to Schwarzer, who collected with ease, but on 73 minutes, captain Frank Lampard stepped up to take a free kick. 30 yards out. Just left of centre. The result? Bottom corner.

Coolly dispatching the set piece, Lampard wheeled away to celebrate with the Chelsea fans. It was a brilliant free kick that deceived Schwarzer with its low trajectory, and the bend and dip on the ball took it beyond the Fulham keeper. In a matter of moments, Chelsea had turned the game on its head.

But despite some excellent defending, Fulham’s late pressure paid off as Dempsey brilliantly headed home beyond Cech from the home side’s first corner of the game. With no defender at the far post, the American steered his effort to Cech’s right and into the net, sending the stadium into a frenzy of delight. At the away end, the noise had soon died down. Denied at the last by Schwarzer, who palmed away Cole’s shot before Lampard’s follow up was cleared off the line, Chelsea had been held, for the sixth time this season.

Carefree, wherever we may be.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu (Andreasen), Murphy (Baird), Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Nevland)

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Alex (Carvalho 37), Ashley Cole, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, Joe Cole (Kalou 72), Drogba, Malouda (Anelka 30)

Attendance: 25,462

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Frank Lampard


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