Fulham and Chelsea played out a tight goalless draw under the floodlights at Craven Cottage. Despite being under pressure for much of the second-half, Fulham almost netted a late winner but Clint Dempsey saw his injury-time penalty saved by Petr Cech
With both sets of fans in good voice from the start, this evening encounter at Craven Cottage got underway in amidst a true local derby atmosphere.
The Whites were first to register an attack when Andrew Johnson combined well with Damien Duff on five minutes, building a Fulham counter-attack which resulted in Johnson winning a corner for the Whites.
Chelsea set up with Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole taking up wide attacking positions when in possession, clearly looking to stretch the Whites’ defence across the pitch. But with neither side creating too much in the way of goal scoring chances, the early exchanges saw possession hotly contested in a busy midfield area.
There were nervy moments for the Whites’ defence on 22 minutes when a loose pass from Danny Murphy put Aaron Hughes in an uncomfortable situation with both Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres looking to get goal-side. Thankfully Hughes was able to hold off his opponents, enabling the danger to be snuffed out.
As the pace of the game picked up Petr Cech had to be alert to parry out a powerful dipping shot from Damien Duff. But Duff’s shot aside, Cech looking comfortable, claiming more than his fair share of corners and crosses.
Frank Lampard spurned an opportunity to hit the target on 27 minutes when he sliced a shot over from 10 yards after a teasing low ball from Ivanovic. The chances started to come for Chelsea soon after. A fierce long-range drive from Florent Malouda fizzed just over Schwarzer’s bar and, just moments later; the Australian international had to tip over Ivanovic’s somewhat wayward cross.
Ivanovic entered the referee’s book on 38 minutes when he was adjudged to have pulled the shirt of Mousa Dembele. The caution came at the end of a spell of intense Fulham pressure. But it was Chelsea who had the final word at the end of the first-half when Fernando Torres saw a chance go begging after he let the ball to get away from his feet, allowing Mark Schwarzer to gather.
Following the restart Torres was nearly the beneficiary of a bad pass from Danny Murphy which was collected by Mark Schwarzer, Referee Dean adjudged it to be a back pass, but Chelsea were unable to work resulting the free-kick to their advantage.
Certainly Carlo Ancelotti’s men were enjoying a better start to the second-half, but for all of their possession, the most Schwarzer had to deal with was the occasion long-range shot. Nonetheless, Fulham were being penned back deep in their own half for long periods.
Fulham managed to buy some time and space when the counter-attacking threat of Mousa Dembele made Ancelotti’s men think twice before committing players forward. And as the second-half developed Fulham continued to get back into the game. With Carlos Salcido providing a good outlet down the left flank, the forward runs of Branislav Ivanovic were being kept in check.
Chelsea made the first substitution of the match, introducing Salmon Kalou for Nikolas Anelka on 65 minutes. A second change followed for the visitors with Didier Drogba coming on in place of Torres. Both changes had the desired effect of swinging the momentum of the match back in Chelsea’s favour.
Mark Hughes elected to replace Andrew Johnson with Simon Davies on 73 minutes. The switch saw Clint Dempsey join Dembele in attack.
Michael Essien glanced his diving header just wide of the goal on 78 minutes as Chelsea maintained a high level of pressure on the Whites. Fulham were simply unable to play their way out of their half.
Clint Dempsey forced a good save from Petr Cech on 83 minutes after a dangerous Fulham break. Mark Hughes then made a double substitution shortly after, introducing Eidur Gudjohnsen and Zoltan Gera to the action in place of Danny Murphy and Mousa Dembele.
Didier Drogba fired wildly wide on 86 minutes, taking Chelsea’s number of efforts off target to 19. Then there was high drama when Clint Dempsey latched on to a Eidur Gudjohnsen pass late on and was brought down by David Luiz for a penalty kick. Dempsey stepped up a but his penalty was saved by Cech, it was the final piece of action in an enthralling encounter.