Hard to know what to think. Chelsea and Fulham both put out weakened sides, which should still have resulted in a home win, but Fulham fought hard, missed a penalty and couldn’t put away Chelsea’s ten men. So we had to go through the agony of a shoot-out, after which Chelsea were left standing as Dembele and Ruiz missed. The defeat in itself is no bad thing – we have more than enough games to play – but you don’t put that much effort in and lose happily. A shame for everyone who played.
Much to nod appreciatively about, though. The play of Fulham’s fringe players was frequently excellent:
- Marcel Gecov looked very tidy in the middle of the park, sure of touch and timely in the tackle
- Zdenek Grygera is the canny defender we hoped for; what a player he seems to be
- Chris Baird ran the game from midfield
- Matthew Briggs did a passable Gareth Bale impression
- Kerim ‘Barry’ Frei was sensational. Some of his driving runs were a thrill to see. Don’t let people talk to you about end product – how many 17 year olds can beat that many men and make the optimal decision? He’s really one to watch
- Bryan Ruiz started to show what the fuss is about. One dinked ball over the top to Orlando Sa was terrific
- Orlando Sa showed good energy and presence while he was on the pitch
- Patjim Kasami didn’t have a night to remember – his penalty kick in the 90 minutes could have sealed things – but it’s impressive that a 19 year old would take charge in that situation, and he continues to make me think that he’ll develop into something more than useful. He has his ups and downs on the pitch but he’s always there, and if he takes that attitude to training I think he’ll go far (it was funny to see a second half free-kick in a good position – with none of the established players on the pitch there was no pecking order to work down, and we ended up with Kasami, Frei and Baird over the ball. The latter took the shot, and as with most of them since Stoke, it wasn’t all that).
Kelly, Senderos and Schwarzer played wellish too, although Kelly’s passing in the first half was a bit wonky.
All in all a very creditable performance. I suppose in the end class told – Chelsea brought on Lampard and Terry and this did hold us back a little, but for long stretches we looked more than equal to our wealthy neighbours. Good chances were, in retrospect, slightly scarce, Sa could’ve teed up Kasami in the first half but sliced wide, Frei nearly got clear in the second but Turnbull saved well, Baird shot wide following Turnbull’s drop. There were probably others, but nothing too clear. Extra time was a tired and tense, Sidwell playing very advanced for him, volleying *just* too high on the run, Zamora shooting high when you’d have hoped for more from him. Briggs cramped up but could not be subbed.
Penalties, then: Zamora – right footed again – scores; Sidwell scores with a fine kick; Dembele’s shot is saved; Baird scores; Ruiz hits the bar and the ball bounces down then out. It looks over to the naked eye but it’s not given, and TV evidence proves this to be the right decision.