Deadly Dempsey thwarts Blues
Clint Dempsey headed home an 89th minute equaliser as Fulham and Chelsea drew 2-2 at Craven Cottage.
Last Updated: 28/12/08 10:03pm
A last-gasp header from Clint Dempsey dented Chelsea's title charge as Fulham snatched a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.
The American rose highest from Simon Davies' corner in the 89th minute to grab his second goal of the game after two Frank Lampard strikes looked enough to earn Chelsea the three points.
Dempsey started and finished the scoring after earlier prodding in his second goal in consecutive home games when Chelsea failed to deal with Davies' free-kick on 10 minutes.
However, Chelsea hit back after the break with Lampard seizing on a collision between Mark Schwarzer and Aaron Hughes to level matters on 50 minutes.
And on 74 minutes, with Chelsea bombarding the Fulham goal, Lampard stepped up to rifle a 30-yard free-kick past Schwarzer to put the Blues into a deserved lead.
However, with the clock ticking down, Dempsey arrived on cue to send the home fans into raptures and extend Fulham's remarkable unbeaten run to nine games.
Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari decided to start with Nicolas Anelka on the bench and Didier Drogba caused Fulham all sorts of problems in the opening stages.
Florent Malouda fed the Ivorian striker with a delicate reverse ball but Drogba drove his shot into the side-netting, wide of the near post.
Chelsea full-back Jose Bosingwa was frustrated to concede a free-kick for a foul on Andrew Johnson - and Fulham took full advantage to take a 10th-minute lead.
John Obi Mikel failed to deal with Davies' curling free-kick as it bounced at the far post and Dempsey controlled the ball on his chest before flicking it past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Drogba worked space in the Fulham box with a neat turn past Hughes to slide his shot between Schwarzer's legs and was unfortunate to see the ball roll agonisingly wide.
Chelsea were laying siege to the Fulham box. Hughes did well to shepherd the ball out for a corner when Drogba latched onto a knock-down from Malouda.
Malouda was replaced by Anelka after half an hour and his first touch teed up a stinging drive from 25 yards that Schwarzer could only parry clear off his thigh.
Chelsea's reshuffle saw Joe Cole pushed into a more advanced role on the right and they continued to dominate possession but Fulham were bright on the ball and Cech needed to intercept a low cross from Bobby Zamora before Dempsey could pounce again.
Chelsea then made their second change with Alex replaced after 36 minutes by Ricardo Carvalho, who returned to action after nearly three months out with a knee injury.
Bosingwa teed up Lampard for another strike from outside the box and Schwarzer did well to scramble across and push it behind for a corner.
Fulham were under pressure right from the restart with Brede Hangeland and then Dickson Etuhu forced into vital rearguard action as Drogba linked with Cole down the left flank.
Four minutes into the second half the pressure finally told as Lampard pounced on a mix-up between Hughes and Schwarzer to put Chelsea level.
Hughes, retreating towards his own goal to deal with Deco's lofted ball and under pressure from Drogba, collided with Schwarzer and Lampard was able to slot the loose ball home.
Chelsea ramped up the pressure further. Lampard's pin-point 50-yard ball bisected Hughes and John Pantsil to find Drogba who took one touch but then rifled his shot over the bar.
Chelsea switched their point of attack to Cole, who forced Schwarzer to make two sharp saves in the space of a minute as Fulham continued to be stretched.
But there was no hint of Fulham, driven by the industrious Dempsey and Danny Murphy in midfield, trying to hold on for the draw and when Pantsil cut inside his left-foot shot flew just wide of Cech's near post.
Chelsea fans booed the substitution of Cole but they were soon cheered as Lampard rifled a free-kick through a gap in the Fulham wall and under Schwarzer's dive to put Chelsea 2-1 up.
But Fulham refused to roll over and with the clock ticking down earned one final chance - and once again Chelsea were found wanting at a set-piece.
Dempsey rose highest to meet the corner and directed his header inside the unguarded far post.
There was more drama to come as Chelsea piled forward in search of an injury-time winner but Schwarzer pulled off a brilliant save to deny Cole and then Lampard's shot appeared to hit the arm of Pantsil.
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||8|
|3||Shots off Target||7|