Fulham 0-0 Chelsea

In some ways this fighting 0-0 draw was a minor classic: a very good side against a decent one, with both giving everything and neither able to prevail.   Chelsea came to dominate in the end, Fulham had the match’s golden opportunity.  That feels like a good game.

The first half was even, and while Petr Cech was the busier of the two goalkeepers, this was largely because all of our crosses landed in his outstretched arms.   This was frustrating but embodied the task at hand.   Somehow we weren’t getting the chance to get chances.  Chelsea are a formiddably powerful side and their players had that extra second, that extra pace, that extra oomph.    Not that we didn’t fight hard – for the first half we battled like madmen – but there was always a sense that for all our competitive energy, for all the game’s evenness, it didn’t feel like enough.   Which in some ways shows how wrong you can be, but we’ll come back to this.

Chelsea were again accommodating the once-decent forward Fernando Torres.  It’s no exaggeration to suggest that they would have had more success employing Crawley Town’s Sergio Torres;   Fernando was that bad.    His performance was akin to that of a small child being made to eat his brussells sprouts.   Were I a Chelsea fan I’d be devastated at this waste of space, and keep all possible fingers crossed that somehow this is only a necessary warmup to the excellence that lies ahead.    But how long is it since he played like a £5,000,000 player, let alone one worth ten times that?   Chelsea have paid for a name, a reputation.   He was dire.    The Hammersmith End was not slow in telling him this.

The second half was one way traffic.  Chelsea pinned Fulham back and our shape either went to pot or held up brilliantly, depending on what we were supposed to be doing.    Certainly Chelsea could find no way through, but equally, we couldn’t keep the ball for more than 10 seconds as all available staff were camped around our own area.   A defeat seemed almost certain, even with Chelsea’s band of misfiring strikers.   A handful of crosses slipped along the face of our goal without interruption; surely we couldn’t keep this up?

But we did.   Clint Dempsey had a decent chance on the break, but his lack of burning pace told as he was caught up and hurried, and his decent shot was parried by the immaculate Cech.   Simon Davies headed over.   The game was getting hideously stretched now, Hughes’ substitutions showing remarkable boldness given what had been happening, but sometimes boldness is what you need:  the game was only going one way when we were packing our own half, and sometimes attack can be the best form of defence, after all.

Then it happened.  Dempsey wriggled clear of the otherwise outstanding David Luiz, picked his moment and did his little “I’ve been fouled” tumble.   The referee pointed to the spot, the exhausted Dempsey and the fresh as a daisy Gera conferred, and Dempsey placed the ball on the spot.    It’s not 20-20 hindsight to question penalty taker selection:  not so long ago Dempsey took the ball off Murphy to score from the spot, a move that raised eyebrows but which was successful because he scored.   Dempsey is a confident lad and this is of course vital, but Gera can take spot kicks too and under the circumstances you’d think hard about going with the fresher player.   Or not;  had Gera taken and missed you could very easily say that Dempsey should have taken it.   Whatever, the fact is Dempsey’s kick was poor and saved, and there went a glorious chance to pull off an extraordinary rope-a-dope victory.

Is this what Hughes played for?   Keep it tight, keep them out, then bust out in the last 10 minutes to try to nick it?   Maybe so, in which case, fair play to the man for almost securing an amazing win.   It didn’t quite happen, which is a huge shame.   Missed late penalties against Stoke or Wolves or Wigan disappear into time’s attic without much of a second thought;  the same kicks against Chelsea are played over and over and over in our minds.   As I cycled home I pictured Clint slotting it low to Cech’s left, I pictured him blasting it high into the roof of the net, or sweeping it beyond his right hand with emphatic certainty.   But no, in the real world we’re left with that tired nothing of a hit and hope (I know, easy for me to sit here and be critical, right?) penalty that meant we didn’t pull off the win we’d never forget.

Drogba was a little inside the area, no?   It looked worse than this at the ground.   Ref must have seen it too.   By the letter of the law…

31 thoughts on “Fulham 0-0 Chelsea

  1. Got to admit I didn’t notice at the time, but listening to the radio on way home Steve Claridge reckoned Drogba must have been obscuring the Ref’s view of the penalty spot he was so far forward.

    Clint shouldn’t have taken it though, I was surprised he managed as good an effort as he did.

      1. To me it looked like Gera wanted it but Clint took it. But I might be completely wrong about that, wasn’t really paying much attention.

  2. I was excited to see Clint get the call, excited to see him take it, but I had a bad feeling when they showed Cech standing there.

  3. Didn’t deserve to win, but was pretty gutted at the end. We were pressed back a lot in the second half, but Chelsea largely played in front of our defence and I didn’t think they were very threatening. Was only really impressed by Ramires and Luiz (who looks fantastic) for them. Overall we coped comfortably with them, but were too loose second half, giving the ball away for too easily.

    Thought Sidwell played well and pleasing to see Salcido have a largely decent game. Was a bit worried about him after he seemed to lose confidence earier in the season, but he did OK today.

  4. Please don’t let Dempsey take it, Please don’t let Dempsey take it, Please don’t let Dempsey take it….Doh!

    I thought his penalty the other day was lucky to go in. Murphy is a much better penalty taker.

    I cannot believe that in this day and age that they would still not know who takes a penalty at any stage in the game. That would be in-excusable. It is one of those 1%ers that can mean the difference between staying in the Premier League or not (or going through to the next round of a World Cup.) Surly they would have tables with who the best takers are based on history and training? I think the current rules (probably not after today) are ‘if Murphy is on, he takes it, unless Clint gets the penalty, then he is allowed to take it, AJ 2nd, Gera 3rd, etc.’

    I think Murphy wanted it – by the way he reacted when Clint missed.

      1. That is a VERY good point! Completely slipped my mind. I am sure I saw footage (was watching it on Foxtel in Aus) of Murphy with head in hand despondent – but that could have been from the bench. I was trying to calm my 5mth old boy (in full Fulham kit) down – I made him cry by chucking him in the air and screaming when we got a penalty :-)

    1. I was following the gamecast as I was finishing my day teaching. When I saw the penalty come up I thought, “we’ve won!” I got up from my desk, prepared the board for tomorrow, and when I sat down I couldn’t believe it… it would have been delicious to steal all three points, but a point against Chelski is always a good result.

      So, what are the team stats in regards to PKs? My gut tells me Gera should’ve taken it, but what do the numbers say?

      1. I don’t know them – and I am not sure they would be released as they are probably based on training sessions. I know Gera took one last year when Murphy was off and people were surprised. I was sure at the time (and told all and sundry round me in the Hammy end) that Roy would not be the type of manager to leave PKs to chance, he and the team would know who would take the kick – Gera grabbed the ball, no one argued. Compare that with today when Dempsey stood up, Gera tried to take it off him, which probably put a bit of doubt into Dempsey’s mind and added a bit of pressure. Again, just adds one or two percent of odds to the keeper.

  5. How many of us, with 10 minutes to go, would not have happily settled for 0-0? We really didn’t deserve to win, but it would have been sweet. Cech looked good throughout, and when I realised Murphy was not on the field to take it, I really didn’t think anyone else was going to beat him from the spot. Good defensive display, but were we deliberately letting them come onto us, or were we just overrun in midfield?

    1. Oh absolutely. I think 0-0 was a fair result. We worked incredibly hard to keep it level, hence the many tired legs come the last 15 minutes or so. Really enjoyed it actually, just wish we could have put the cherry on the cake!

  6. Is anyone else worried about Murphy? He’s been sloppy for large swathes of games for the past several weeks.

    Not that it should come at Murphy’s expense, but I wish we would see a little more of Gera.

    1. Actually I’ve been thinking that Murphy has been at his best ever for us in the past several weeks. Didn’t make an impact today but then we were overrun in midfield.

      1. I was surprised that he played a few hurried and misplaced passes through the game. He is the one player whose technique you would think would stand up (indeed thrive) under the pressure of a superior opposition team. Made me think of him as a flat-track bully.

    2. I think Murphy’s been at his best as well. He really is the brain of the team. He does get a lot of passes – today time and time again he had the ball passed to him and was immediately in trouble as it was the wrong pass to make. Cech seemed to catch every cross/free kick/corner which I think was more to do with our guys getting it wrong then him coming out and claiming the ball in areas where perhaps he shouldn’t.
      I thought Dempsey was gonna miss the penalty and sure enough … to be fair he earned it and probably earned the right to take it. The same happened a few weeks ago – much to Murphy’s annoyance at the time. Overall, would have been nice to win but a draw was fair and most of us would have been content with that before the game. I think Hughes set the team up well to restrict Chelski’s chances and maybe nab a goal. Full credit to him. I knew he would be vindicated.

      1. Me too on Murphy – amazing player. We’re lucky to have him, and seeing him in such form is a pleasure. Got a bit overwhelmed last night, but that’s how it can go against big sides.

  7. Fairly new Fulham fan here, so don’t know how he’s been in past seasons, but I think there is a lot of sentiment around Murphy. Passes well, sure, but he just keeps losing the ball. In the first half alone I think he gave the ball away at least 4 times, a couple of which lead to swift Chelsea attacks and half chances.

    Sidwell was fantastic last night (certainly in the first half; not sure who in the second half really touched the ball!!), and so when Etuhu comes back – who will it be in central midfield?

    1. He lost the ball a lot last night and had his worst game for ages, the opposition having much to do with that. He doesn’t usually lose the ball so much and, for those who take notice of such things, his stats compare with almost anyone in the division. Wish it was just sentiment and that we it would prove easier to replace like for like, which Sidwell isn’t. But he is indeed doing excellently and could probably work out a way of working in tandem with Etuhu, I agree.

    2. In fairness to Murphy he does get closed down more quickly than other Fulham players – ‘marking’ him is an obvious tactic for any team intent on disrupting Fulham’s rhythm.

    3. Murphy still got something special, a footballing brain, that sees opportunites other players don’t. He did get closed down last night which led to him making some poor passes but he’s always looking to do the right thing. Quite excited now that we have Sidwell though, we’re not so completely reliant on Murphy to control the game. I like Dickson enormously but for me Sidwell & Murphy are the starting pair now.

  8. I thought at the time that Gera should have taken it as he has taken pressure-filled spot kicks before (the one vs. Juve was immense), but I would suspect that no one was going to talk Clint out of taking it.

    I kept telling myself last night that I should have been happy with this result, but I just kept thinking about what a great smash & grab this would have been.

  9. Not a good night for John Pantsil: not restored to the starting line-up after being subbed last time out – even though Hughes had to switch Baird to the right to accomodate Salcido as Pantsil’s replacement. Absent injuries and suspensions, it does look as if JP will struggle to get back into the side.

  10. Clint has many qualities but that penalty was dire. About a third of the way across the goal gives the keeper a pretty good chance.

    You mention Chelsea’s extra power, speed and oomph. Quite right. That’s why they and their ilk can dominate and make it so hard for ordinary mortals to win and retain possession. That’s why Murphy, despite being in such fine form, had such a torrid evening. I agree with Chopper and others about Sidwell. He may not have Etuhu’s raw physicality but the overall package seems to fit our team better.

    Finally, how rewarding that despite all the scares our defence coped as they have done repeatedly since the turn of the year, so our unbeaten run continues.

  11. great report. I thought Hughes’ substitutions were less bold, but perfect and exactly what we needed, as we had really started to look scarce in the center of midfield.

    I think we are looking more dangerous going forward with Moussa, Clint and AJ then I can remember, and am really looking forward to the potential we will have once BZ is added to those options.

  12. The game was intriguing, we defended resoloutely but got lucky at points, Chelsea were blunt and happy to pass the ball about but were lucky not to come away with a loss.

    No one else could have taken that penalty. Had Gera/Davies/Gudjohnsen missed then that could have been the end of their Fulham careers (possibly a slight over-exaggeration). Dempsey, our top scorer, who won the penalty, had to take it. He now will not be taking a penalty for a while, but I have no doubt he will score this weekend and redouble his efforts, he strikes me as a player who likes to prove people wrong.

    Watching the penalty again, and my mate noticed this at the time, Cech takes a giant step to one side before diving towards the Dempsey penalty. My mate reckons that Dempsey, who had been opening up his body for the shot, changed his mind, hence the poor penalty.

    Finally, I am delighted for Salcido – I know the two centre backs have gotten all the praise but he was instrumental in not only helping shuttle the Chelsea players inside but adding some precious width going forward, allowing us to hold the ball in space and try to stretch an relatively comfortable Chelsea defence. I hope he gets a run now, fancy him for a few more assists.

    1. It’s entirely possible the Salcido is finally 100% healthy after that horrid ankle sprain. I think that had more to do with his dip in form than anything. That type of injury is well known for taking some time to truly heal and rest seems to be the only thing that expedites recovery. If Monday’s display is a precursor of things to come with regards to his play, I doubt JP will be back in the side for some time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s