Fulham stun forlorn Chelsea
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
A late goal from Carlos Bocanegra saw Fulham claim a point at Chelsea.
A late goal from Carlos Bocanegra saw Fulham claim a richly deserved point against Chelsea, in a 2-2 stalemate that puts a serious dent in the title credentials of the current champions.
There was little, if any, swagger from Jose Mourinho's men and on a damp day in the capital there was nothing to suggest Chelsea have enough in their tank to run Manchester United to the wire.
Fulham were more than worth a share of the spoils and with a little more composure in the final minute, when Brian McBride just failed to connect from close range, they could have secured a maximum haul.
Moritz Volz scored the 15,000th goal in Premiership history when he struck in the 16th minute but just past the hour mark and they were trailing after Liam Rosenior had put through his own goal and Didier Drogba had headed in Frank Lampard's cross, to become the first Chelsea player in a decade to score 20 goals in one season
Fulham's tenacity deserved recognition and it was duly rewarded six minutes from time when Bocanegra grabbed a leveller after Henrique Hilario had parried McBride's snapshot, which exposed another example of Chelsea's inability to defend at present.
The game embraced all the ingredients that make up any quintessential derby as both teams set out with attacking intent to serve up a post-Christmas cracker.
Fulham were bright in possession against a Chelsea side that defensively have looked not quite a shambles but certainly awkward, ever since John Terry has been reduced to the sidelines with a back injury.
There is, though, precious little wrong with their forays into the final third and prior to Volz's surprise opener the champions could, and perhaps should, have conjured a lead of their own.
Michael Essien's powerhouse displays have been a feature all season and he was again at the hub of all Chelsea's best work as first the midfielder poked just wide from Salomon Kalou's pull-back before forcing Antti Niemi into a smart stop with a daisy cutter from the edge of the area, after Drogba showed tremendous strength in holding the ball up.
Essien then turned provider but whilst his cross from the right begged to be converted, Kalou could not oblige as his lack of conviction allowed the ball to escape him no more than a yard from goal.
Chelsea's ascendancy was quickly undermined by a defence that lacks conviction without its leader, as Volz capitalised on some more sloppy play. A throw-in down Fulham's left saw Tomasz Radzinski wrong-foot Claude Makelele with a clever dummy and after taking the ball in his stride, Volz hammered past Hilario at his near post aided by a slight deflection off Paulo Ferreira.
As Chelsea looked to hit back they would have done so almost immediately had Bocanegra's fine block not thwarted Michael Ballack at the far post, after Niemi had pushed the ball out following a slalom run from Kalou down the right.
It was not though a case of Chelsea penning back their visitors as Wayne Routledge's occasional lack of composure was never more so in evidence, as the wide man lashed horribly over when found criminally free in the box.
Chelsea's leveller owed more to luck than quality as Rosenior got his feet in a terrible tangle in deflecting the ball beyond his own goalkeeper. It was the young full-back's poor header that presented Lampard with possession but while his drive from the edge of the area was heading a yard wide, Rosenior stuck out a boot, and off his back foot, the ball deviated past Niemi.
At the break the heavens opened and those soaked Chelsea fans could have had more to moan about had McBride's downward header from a corner not been cleared off Chelsea's line in the opening minute of the second half.
Whilst Chelsea are far from at their best in Drogba they have a player playing at the peak of his powers and just past the hour mark he headed in from close range after Lampard had looped the ball into his path with a clever cross from the left.
Far from throwing in the towel Fulham went for the jugular of their hosts as Luis Boa Morte forced Hilario into a flying save at his near post and Routledge, again, petered the ball wide when he should have done better.
With the champions uncharacteristically on the rack, a rare error from Essien in getting caught under Franck Queudrue's cross was punished when after McBride was denied by Hilario, Bocanegra pounced to secure an unlikely but most welcome point for Fulham.
Chelsea v Fulham player ratings
|3||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||4|
|11||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||5|
|14||Total Fouls Conceded||11|