Fulham 1-1 Chelsea

One of these teams is in the Champions League semi-final, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the game. Which is a bad thing, I suppose, as it’ll only confirm to Clint Dempsey what he probably already knows: he can play with the top players because he is one of the top players.

Dempsey it was who scored Fulham’s well deserved equaliser tonight, a free header from a corner that hobbled into the far corner of the net teasingly slowly. 1-1 was just about justice, although had there been extra time I think the men in white shirts might have prevailed.

They all did their bit. The back four looks just as good as Chelsea’s unit, with Hangeland, Hughes and Riise all top class and Stephen Kelly not far off. A midfield three of Diarra, Murphy and Dembele was equally impressive, Diarra authoring his best game for the whites with a superlative display of midfield intelligence. At times there seemed to be two of him on the pitch. Further forward Damian Duff did as he usually does – he’s certainly back to top form – and on the other flank Kerim Frei put in a revelation stint until he ran out of gas just as Ivanovic started to look like a red card waiting to happen. Nevertheless, Frei’s rehabilitation was thrilling, his directness and pace causing his opponents serious concerns. Dempsey played centre-forward, fought hard, and got another goal. He’s quite something.

The match itself was a thriller. Both teams looked to play the ball on the deck, passing and moving quickly. The result was a blur of blue and white under the floodlights, with plenty of good attacking approach work and some intriguing battles. The game shifted this way and that in its momentum, but a feeling grew that they weren’t really hurting us, that their shots were a little forced, and that we only had to keep going and something good might materialise (certainly Cech was the busier keeper).

Then things changed, Kalou jigged into the area and drew a challenge from Murphy that looked messy but fair. Mark Clattenberg pointed to the spot, and Fulham protested sincerely. It was hard to know what might have happened from where we sat, although Murphy’s body language suggested injustice. We later found out that the award was for contact by Stephen Kelly, for which we might just as well say “are you really fit to referee then?” because Kelly’s contact was minimal and certainly didn’t bring Kalou down. Another soft penalty for a big team, and while we don’t usually go in for conspiracy theories, (and we do remember last year’s award for Luis’s trip) that’s two iffy penalty decisions against us in short order, against Manchester United and Chelsea. So, you know, if it looks like a duck and all that.

Nevertheless, Frank Lampard stepped up and fired the ball past Schwarzer (who for all his positive characteristics, never seems to come close to saving penalties), celebrating in front of the Hammersmith End like a man with something to prove: “I am the great Frank Lampard, the very wealthy Frank Lampard, and I have just scored against you pathetic nobodies!” or something. Whatever, he didn’t really do anything else in the game and was thoroughly outplayed by our midfield three, so anyway.

As ever, the second half roared into life on the hour, the game opening up and giving Fulham fans much to cheer. We started to dominate the midfield even more, and forced Cech into some good saves, not least a parry from Aaron Hughes that defied belief.  But we beat him with that Dempsey header and almost did so again soon after when Orlando Sa (part of a new bench featuring Kasami and Briggs, too!) climbed high but headed too near to the goalkeeper.

Never mind. We did really well and fully deserved the point.

27 thoughts on “Fulham 1-1 Chelsea

  1. What a lovely game of football. Our control of the midfield at times was brilliant.

    The only two criticisms I would have is 1) whilst our wingers/full backs got to the byline the crosses in to the box weren’t finding anyone (usually cos Dempsey was the only one getting into the box) this is where having the Pog back will help. 2) Think we missed Ruiz at the top of the midfield triangle – he would have bossed in that game last night – I prefer Dembele in his deeper role but he had to supplement clint last night and wasn’t as effective.

    Feels really good to know that without either of Pog, AJ & Ruiz we can still field a strong side to get a point against Chelsea and perhaps even could have won it.

    With Ruiz out I wouldn’t mind seeing Kasami play a couple of games in that number 10 position to see how he gets on.

  2. Nice report Rich. So rare to find a sports report which is well written.

    Yes, we deserved at least a draw.

    My only concern is that I still can’t warm to Dembele. He’s class, no doubt, but he frustrates the hell out of me. Never seems to find that killer pass, that decent, on target shot. But I seem to be in the minority.

    Kelly and Riise seem to have been transformed in the last month – the defence was excellent.

    And a word for Dickson Etuhu, who comprehensively kept Terry out of the way to let Clint get a clear header from the corner.

    1. Yeah, Dembele is frustrating. For his talent he just doesn’t do enough. Last night he was supposed to be the second/support striker but he didn’t get up there enough. He has the skill and power and enough speed to be able to take they ball through the defence but not the will to do it it seems (slipped through on the left by Dempsey in the first half he had to go for goal – but he didn’t).

      Still, the most talented player I have seen play for Fulham (in four seasons of going to the Cottage) and pretty sure (more so than in the case of Dempsey) that he will be on his way in the summer. Hope he stays in the Premier League so can see how he evolves.

  3. THIS GAME. Frei! Dempsey! Diarra! Duff! Clattenberg! Aaaaaah!

    The only justice is Clint Dempsey justice.

    Been waiting all day for this recap; I can sleep now.

  4. As Etuhu is brought on for Murphy (0-1).. Me: “this is hardly a positive move!” My mate: “Well at least DM won’t be handling the dead ball situations for rest of game.” Next corner: Hughes chance; following corner: GOAL.

    Can anyone remember Goal coming from dead ball situation involving Murphy (or short pass!!!!) since Baidininho’s Stoke Away Christmas 2010??

  5. If Chelsea had not gotten an incorrect penalty we would have won. They had 3 (!!) shots on target throughout the match, which considering that one of those was a penalty, is pretty shocking for a CL semi-final team.

    The midfield were outstanding – I have wanted to see Diarra/Murphy/Dembele trio for a while and they did not disappoint, dominating the centre of the pitch and snuffing our Chelsea attacks before they even begun.

    With a little more finishing composure from our front 3 or a bit more luck, we would be talking about a well earned victory having completely outplayed Chelsea. I wonder if after the last two games the Russian is regretting firing AVB because Chelsea’s problems are very obvious – they need to get rid of the old guard and rebuild.

    As the season draws to a close, we are definitely seeing Jol’s team and what we have seen excites. Our only problem is that in all probability we only have 5 more games of Dempsey and Dembele, so we should sit back and enjoy whilst we can. Pity Ruiz is unable to join the end of season parade.

  6. Draw was possibly all we deserved for (as Jol said) not having troubled the goalkeeper more, albeit (as Rich said) ours had even less to do. We certainly played most of the football you’d want to pay to watch.

    The standouts were Riise for being back to the guy we thought that we had signed; Diarra for combining class with more dynamism and creativity than I at least had anticipated; and Frei for providing a few sequences that foretaste what Messi will be serving them up. To do that aged 18 is startling and thrilling.

  7. Great 1st half from Fulham, Diarra´n Murphy were top, impressive! I´m so glad about my big mistake on Diarra :) Maybe Dembele does´nt always choose the best final pass, but anyway, it´s our last 5 games with him, so let´s enjoy him.

    The penalty was a joke, an awfull joke.. We deserve the win! Proud of these guys..

    Pd; this chelski is going to pick up many times the ball from the his net on the Camp Nou

  8. The great think about playing Frei and Kac-whatever his name, is that if you were a promising young player choosing which club to sign for there is a good chance Fulham would be the one. Where else would they get nurtured and played if ready in the Premiership? Hope we sign Diarra for the long term, he is starting to mix subtlety with brawn and with a proper pre-season could be genuinely world class

  9. I don’t care if Schwarzer never saves another penalty in his life – watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZdbW7PSPGk the Australia v Uruguay penalty shootout. He saved 2 to get Australia to the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.

    I think you will find his record at penalties is not that bad – We don’t get many penalties against us so he can’t save many

    1. Agreed. I’d also like to point out Schwarzer’s PK save on Robbie Fowler at the dying moments of the ’05 season which put Boro in the UEFA Cup (over City). That was amazing.

  10. Am I the only one that thought this game was actually a bit dull, if not poor? Sure, the last 15 minutes were interesting. But on the whole it was clear both teams were playing for the second time in two days in April, and thus one team was trying to grind out a win (even before the penalty), while the other was clearly not with their best XI.

    The possession stats kept popping up like 70-30 in favor of Chelsea, but what about the times no one had possession and the ball was just bouncing back and forth? It probably would have read: Fulham 15%, Chelsea 15%, No One 70%.

    1. Think you might be. We had a great time and found it a really absorbing game. And Murphy said it was the best we’d played this season. So I reckon you’ve perhaps missed something, Timmy.

      1. I can sort of see where Timmy is coming from which is the tempo of the game was slightly off. Because both teams were playing on only a days proper rest, the tempo was slower than Premier League standard. The lack of blood and thunder football meant it seemed a bit strange.

        Being there, the atmosphere mitigated this fact, and the game was absorbing and nerve racking.

        I agree that it was one of our best performances of the season, which seems a strange thing to say, but we completely absorbed (almost) everything Chelsea had to throw at us and made them look pedestrian. This was probably a greater accomplishment than winning (if this doesnt sound insane)

      2. Well, I guess this is the difference of seeing it in person versus across an ocean. In person, the constant rain must have added to the ambiance and atmosphere I do not doubt was extraordinary.

        Across the ocean though, it resulted in easy passes being misplaced, players falling down, and an overall trudging pace.

        My kingdom for a guardian chalkboard.

    2. how can this game ever be a dull one? its the stand out fixture and definately didn’t disappoint. it had pretty much everything save for another fulham goal, we probably had about 5% possession in 06 and wouldn’t change that ! what else could you ask for i wonder?

  11. Quality match. No complaints here. Couple of thoughts from what I heard/saw watching on TV:

    Where did you hear that the penalty was awarded because of the contact Kelly made rather than because of Murphy’s lunging challenge? Kelly made almost no contact, and Murphy might have actually taken out Kalou’s legs, so while it was a questionable call either way, it would at least be plausible if it was based on Murphy’s challenge. Of course, Meireles picked up a yellow card (which he deserved for earlier fouls anyway) for a player falling down near him, so I guess you never know.

    Also, Dempsey’s header might have been going wide if it hadn’t nicked off Cahill’s rear; Darke and McManaman thought that it might eventually be ruled an own goal.

    1. Sky and BBC mentioned that Clattenberg had clarified that it was a Kelly contact not what Murphy did. Which is stupid because Kelly barely touched him. As you say, the Murphy ‘foul’ might have been understandable in that he did lay himself open to being tripped over.

      1. Why do I suspect that Clattenberg ‘clarified’ this AFTER he had reviewed the incident at half-time? Which makes him the worst type of political spoofer.

  12. I thought it was a great game. For one thing, we pulled a point from one of the top teams, and really, I thought we deserved all 3. For most of the game I thought we were the better team, and take away the questionable penalty kick and we get all 3. I thought we moved the ball better, looked better in the midfield. I also thought there were a lot of positives–Frei, for starters, and Diarra and Duff were both impressive. Plus, we looked like an offensive threat minus a natual striker, not something you can always say. (Among the league’s top goal scorers Dempsey is the only one who isn’t a natural stiker–I hadn’t realized that until ESPN flashed it up.)

    Dembele frustrated the hell out of me when he received the ball in the box with nobody on him. He waited all day. He should have fired with his left or dumped it off quicker. It’s hard to argue against the claim that he does everything right except when he gets close to the goal! I love him but I do wonder if this is something that will work itself out. I missed seeing Ruiz out there, but I thought we adjusted very nicely.

    I don’t know–I might even put this as a top 5 game of the season. Found myself yelling even more than usual.

    1. Obviously I want Dembele to stay, but if we have Diarra to occupy the position that he had been playing for most matches prior to last night, then Ruiz might grow into the one he played on this occasion. He would offer inferior ball retention, but better incision.

  13. Great match which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    A moment that I loved was Duff planting a big kiss on Dempsey’s check at the end of the goal celebration. Sheer joy.

  14. Great report Rich – some great comments too. One thing that hasnt been discussed. What’s up with Fat Frank? Whys he so pissed? His celebration seemed a bit much.

    1. Tim,

      The real reason for Lampard’s over-the-top reaction was because Rich bossed him off the park in a match when they were both school boys.

    2. he’s old and fat and his inadequacy is finally showing for the player he’s always been, with an aging team around him. and he’s also just a wanker – ive seen that celebration before, at the cottage and against west ham

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