A game which looked like two points dropped for so long, turned into a point gained at the end after Petr Cech saved Clint Dempsey’s last minute penalty to earn Blues a point in this West London derby.
Keeping true to his word, Carlo Ancelotti rotated his side around and gave starts to Florent Malouda, David Luiz and Ramires with Didier Drogba amongst others being given a rest for this one, and went with a 4-3-3 formation instead of the diamond.
Fulham had hoped to continue their impressive home record of being unbeaten at home in 2011 as they went into the game having a large contingent of former Blues in their squad as well as their coaching staff.
The game began in a very cagey manner as both teams tried to take control in the middle of the park. Chelsea players looked sharp, and were kept on their toes by Fulham who looked to counter at every opportunity.
Mark Hughes saw from the Liverpool game that sitting deep makes it difficult for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to break them down and he took cue from that game and organised his team in a similar way.
Chelsea were able to dominate the possession, but failed to find the creativity to unlock the Fulham defence, although Frank Lampard did go close for the Blues, but this was before Fernando Torres got the best chance to open his account and give Chelsea the lead.
Firstly, he was played in by Lampard after a mistake from Murphy but a last ditch tackle from the defender forced him wide and then just on the stroke of half-time he was played in by Luiz as he got behind the Fulham defence but his first touch let him down and the chance was gone.
Chelsea were the better of the two teams in the first half, but failed to create any clear cut chances as the midfield looked disjointed and lacked cohesion with the front three for most parts of the game.
The second half begin in a different manner than the first as Chelsea pressed even harder, keeping in mind the importance of three points.
Fernando Torres was again there as the focal point of our attack, and could have put Chelsea ahead after good play down the right allowed Ramires to found him with a cross from the right, but his header was over. Nevertheless, he was getting closer, and the Chelsea fans were singing his name even more loudly and proudly.
Soon it was time for changes for Carlo as he introduced Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba in quick succession to refresh our attack. Taking off Fernando Torres was a little bemusing though, since he was getting closer and it looked like eventually the goal will come for him.
As the game wore on we moved forward in numbers, forcing Fulham to sit even deeper, but this also meant we were leaving spaces behind. So, we switched to a 3-5-2 system as we went for that elusive goal, with Essien, Luiz and Terry taking the positions at the back.
Michael Essien’s diving header was the closest we went despite having so much possession; however, we could have had a penalty after Malouda was fouled by Hangeland but Mike Dean waived play on.
With the game destined for a draw, there was a final twist, as the ever impressive Luiz gave away a penalty for a foul on Clint Dempsey. With Fulham’s regular penalty taker, Daniel Murphy, being already substituted, Dempsey took on the responsibility, but was left frustrated after Per Cech saved his penalty.
Mike Dean had an indifferent game, starting with the booking of Ivanovic to the non-awarding of the Malouda penalty.
We are still finding our way it seems, but one players who hasn’t needed any time to adjust to his new teammates or the new environment is David Luiz who carried on from his impressive cameo against Liverpool to a great performance in this game, despite giving away a penalty.
Carlo Ancelotti was left disappointed by the result as his side were the better team on the night and deserved the win, but accepted that sometimes this happens in football, he said; “It’s very difficult. Obviously we have to try to do our best, game-by-game. We played a good game tonight and deserved to win. This is football.
“The football we showed tonight was good, and we have to continue it.”
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Essien, Lampard; Anelka (Kalou 65), Torres (Drogba 70), Malouda.