Despite dominating the second half Chelsea were lucky to escape from Craven Cottage with a point, thanks to Petr Cech’s stoppage time penalty save.
It was a strange game this one; whilst it was pleasing to see Carlo Ancelotti’s side control a game again after the shambles of Liverpool last week, the lack of goals is increasingly worrying.
Having said that on another night Fernando Torres would’ve bagged a hat trick. The Spaniard was making all the right runs in the build up, but it was ‘one of the those nights’ and his touch let him down on two occasions when in behind Fulham.
The real bright spot was David Luiz, who after catching the eye with his cameo last week, was exceptional again tonight and deserved to walk off having contributed to a crucial victory.
However the host’s stubborn defence ensured the champions were frustrated, and the Blues are now 12 points adrift with 12 games to go.
The big news before kick off was the omission of Didier Drogba from the starting 11, and a return to the more familiar 4-3-3, with Florent Malouda also restored to the side.
In truth it was Fulham who had the better of the first 45 minutes, former Blue Damien Duff looked lively down the right, his low cross creating an opening for Andy Johnson that was well blocked by Luiz, before the Irishman stung the palms of Cech with a fizzing shot that the big keeper punched away.
Branislav Ivanovic, back at right back, proved to be Chelsea’s biggest threat of the opening period as he first set up Frank Lampard he scooped his shot over the bar, before testing Mark Schwarzer with a cross-come-shot that almost caught the Aussie keeper out.
Chelsea’s, and Torres’ big chance came in the closing minutes of the half. First the Spaniard was denied by a timely challenge by Aaron Hughes just as he was about to pull the trigger having beaten two defenders in the build up.
His second opportunity was the one, racing through one-on-one Torres continued to have ‘one of those nights’ when his attempted control saw the ball roll off his thigh, onto his left ball and away into the arms of the grateful Schwarzer.
He did have another chance after the break, but failed to find the target with a curling shot or his header from a Ramires cross.
Didier Drogba appeared on the 70-minute mark, replacing Torres and his urgency almost opened up Fulham. A good run and cut back down the left agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock, before Essien failed to make the most of his header from Lampard’s cross.
Despite the complete control Chelsea were in, you just felt that Fulham could still nick it, especially after the introduction of Zoltan Gera and another familiar face in Eidur Gudjohnsen.
So when Clint Dempsey went down in the 93rd minute it seemed inevitable what would come next.
But credit to Cech for getting the champion’s bid to retain their title on life-support, and sparing Luiz the role of villain having been so impressive throughout.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Salcido, Hangeland, Baird, Hughes, Sidwell, Murphy (Gera 83), Duff, Dempsey, Johnson (Davies 74), Dembele (Gudjohnson 83)
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, David Luiz, Terry, Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda, Torres (Drogba 71), Anelka (Kalou 65)
Man of the Match: David Luiz