FULHAM 2-2 CHELSEA
I couldn’t understand going into this game why the forums seemed so full of confident remarks expecting 3 points at Craven Cottage. Let’s face it, they’d already taken 4 points from their games against Arsenal and Liverpool, and our performances going into this game did nothing to suggest they wouldn’t take something against us as well.
We might have had our away form to point at but Fulham, likewise, have their formidable form at home and for me, a draw was inevitable. Liverpool had already thumped Newcastle and again, as predicted, the pressure was all on us. Unfortunately for us though, our players don’t seem to respond quite as well to pressure as they used to.
Anyway, Scolari decided to start Drogba, which was fine by me – except he’d also decided to leave Anelka on the bench. Unusual decision given Anelka’s away record but no more unusual than the Brazilian’s decision to bench Ballack and play his blue-eyed boy again. We’d also got Alex and Ivanovic paired in defence with John Terry missing through suspension, so not the ideal starting line-up but that’s how it goes.
On to the game then and Fulham started off brightly, so brightly in fact that Clint Dempsey had given them the lead on ten minutes. No time to worry about that though, because we responded pretty well with Drogba almost immediately attacking the Fulham goal – only to put it wide.
Half an hour in and unsurprisingly Chelsea succumbed to yet another injury as Malouda limped off with hamstring trouble. Cue the first comedy moment of the match as Nicolas Anelka seemingly thought he had time to fit in everything but a walk down the King’s Road before making his entrance. Just minutes later and the Chelsea physio’s must have been working out their overtime rates as Alex left the field clutching his thigh. Still, that at least signalled the return of Ricardo Carvalho from injury at last.
We were into our stride by now and practically camped out in the Fulham box before the break but they managed to hang on and we went in 1-0 down.
Second half started the same as the first finished, with us bearing down on Fulham’s goal and just four minutes in, some Keystone Cop-style defending saw Lampard tap in a deserved equaliser. A second looked likely for us at this point, with Drogba hitting over the crossbar before Joe Cole, who seemed rejuvenated after the break, gave Schwarzer a couple of nervous moments in quick succession. Sadly, the Fulham keeper was up to the task, denying first Cole and then Anelka.
For some reason, Scolari decided to take Cole off at this point, maybe he just had too much energy for the Chelsea boss to keep track of him, I dunno, but the chorus of boos told me I wasn’t the only one who disagreed with his tactics. Still, with Kalou barely on the field, Lampard’s 25-yard free-kick had put us 2-1 up, so a smile was temporarily restored on my face – albeit a rather nervous one.
You see, whilst there was no doubt we deserved to be ahead, it never felt a comfortable lead and as Fulham responded in the sort of way we might have done had the tables been turned, I just knew an equaliser was coming. Unfortunately, Dempsey proved me right in the final minute of normal time.
So, having failed on a couple of occasions to capitalise on Liverpool’s results we now go into the new year three points behind them. We just don’t seem to get bored dropping points and that’s just 10 gained from the last 21 – and that sort of form wouldn’t even win us an argument!
FULHAM: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu (Andreasen 78), Murphy (Baird 90), Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Nevland 78).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Kallio.
Goals: Dempsey 10, 89.
CHELSEA: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Alex (Carvalho 37), Ashley Cole, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, Joe Cole (Kalou 72), Drogba, Malouda (Anelka 30).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ballack, Ferreira, Belletti.
Goals: Lampard 50, 72.