Stamford Bridge was once again filled with boos following one of the most boring games of football ever played in West London. It may not be considered a real derby by many at Chelsea but the levels of unrest and disinterest reached a whole new height.
The club may have decided not to announce Rafael Benitez’s name over the PA system but that did nothing to stop the usual anti-Benitez chanting, Di Matteo songs and the 16th minute of appreciation. One thing that did seem odd, however, was Benitez’s choice of tie colour. Orange? Why not blue or just black?
The fact that Benitez’s tie colour was discussed was a reflection of the match. Ramires somehow managed to find the middle rows of the Shed Upper with his first half effort and that set the tone for the rest of the game. David Luiz also blasted a freekick high and wide before Chelsea’s first chance of note feel to Fernando Torres. As most would anticipate, Torres’ touch, turn and shot inside the box did not result in a goal, just Mark Schwarzer making a comfortable low save. Shortly after, Hugo Rodallega registered Fulham’s first attempt on 35 minutes with Petr Cech making an easy save.
The second half continued in the same vein, absolutely dire. Chelsea’s dominance of possession continued but Fulham’s defensive organisation meant Oscar and Eden Hazard simply ran into dead ends whenever they tried to carry the ball or create a move. All this, of course, wasn’t helped by Juan Mata sitting on the bench. What was the need for playing Ryan Bertrand on the left of an attacking midfield 3 against Fulham at home?
On 65 minutes Mata was finally introduced, taking Bertrand’s place. Despite looking lively he encountered the same problems as Oscar and Hazard and by now Fulham’s rigid tactics were firmly set in place, the game looked destined to end up the definition of a bore draw.
The final 15 minutes saw the game open up slightly with John Arne Riise squandering one chance after racing clear and then forcing Cech into a smart save with one of his trademark belters from outside the box. Chelsea came close to scoring when Torres controlled and volleyed but Aaron Hughes was on hand to block the goalbound effort.
Benitez’s second game ended in a second 0-0 draw. The City game was understandable but the tactics this evening did appear to be overly cautious. Ashley Cole and Ceasar Azpilicueta seemed reluctant to make forward runs even when Fulham looked fairly toothless in attack and as mentioned before, Bertrand started ahead of Mata and Marko Marin (at least it can finally be confirmed Marin exists, he looked quite good in his 10 minute cameo, too) . Choosing these tactics with no real striking threat and against a side who happily sat 10 men behind the ball? Even if Di Matteo did that he’d be questioned.