The rain was pouring on a cold night in West London, and with that, Chelsea’s top four aspirations are washing away quickly too. Fulham dampened Chelsea’s spirits in a match which, if they had secured a convincing win, would have sent them back into the top four. But neither did they win, or look remotely convincing. It required a dubious penalty decision for Chelsea to take the lead, Frank Lampard scoring his 150th Premier League goal. But even then, Chelsea could not get away with it. Clint Dempsey equalised, and Chelsea, as per usual, let it slip late on in the game, and now drop into sixth place.
The rotation policy was still firmly in place, with Roberto Di Matteo making six changes from the side that got away with it against Wigan over the weekend. John Terry and Lampard returned, as too did Ramires. Torres led the line, whilst Ryan Bertrand was given a full debut at left-back.
With Tottenham losing earlier in the day, it should have provided Chelsea the motivation to get out there and win. But it felt like anything but. Fulham were quicker off the block, with Riise and Frei working wonders down the left-hand side.
Bar a Torres effort that was blocked, Fulham continued to dominate on a wet pitch that left Chelsea lethargic, with Dempsey ruing a choice to place a shot rather than power it, eventually rolling into Cech’s grateful hands.
The West London derby was beginning to turn heated, and two yellow cards to Cahill and Meireles was a precursor to events in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Danny Murphy challenged two-footed on Salomon Kalou, but whilst he was protesting his innocent, Mark Clattenburg cleared it up saying the penalty was for a Stephen Kelly trip that happened simultaneously. The latter reason looked more dubious that the perceived foul. Either way, Frank Lampard coolly placed it into Schwarzer’s right hand side.
Meireles was not doing himself any favours with a wasted shot after a neat Torres lay-off, but he wasn’t the only Chelsea player who could have wrapped it up, with Kalou missing a glorious chance after a lovely cross from Lampard on the outside of the right boot.
Acknowleding that it might take some skill to kill the game off, Mata was brought on, hoping that he could bring something for Torres and Chelsea.
But it was Fulham who scored the game’s next goal. From a corner, Aaron Hughes saw his powerful header saved at point-blank range by Cech, but from the resulting corner, Fulham did take the lead. Clint Dempsey rose highest, and though he was quite far away, no-one was marking him and somehow, the ball trickled into the back of the net.
If the away end were expecting a last push, they weren’t to get it. Chelsea looked like they were happy to draw, and there was no late drama.
Though it is still a point gained, the realists will tell you that Chelsea should have buried this one. And how they might rue it.