Back into fourth place and only ahead of Liverpool on goal difference. And it could have been worse.
An absolutely dire performance made worse by Newcastle winning a tough one at Sunderland and Liverpool demolishing West Brom. We are stumbling to the finish while Liverpool are rampant.
Fulham came to the Bridge determined to pack midfield and snatch a point. They must have left wondering why they didn’t go for all the points right from the start because they nearly got them.
We never took control of midfield apart from in the early stages when Fulham were packing the defence and were always struggling, with Gronkjaer having one of those days and De Lucas a hazard to his own team wherever he was on the field.
Early on Hasselbaink was sent straight through on the goalkeeper. His first touch belonged to the Sunday leagues but he somehow bundled the ball past Taylor in goal, but couldn’t avoid a Fulhan defender with his clumsy shot.
We were controlling most of the play and you felt we would score, but Lampard was denied a penalty by that man Elleray on 23 minutes who bottled out with a corner award although replays showed the defender never touched the ball.
Finally the goal came from a Zola free kick. It was almost a replay of the goal against Arsenal at the Bridge except that the shot bounced off the bar to Terry who tried to chest it in at the far post. The ball rebounded from the post onto Goma who couldn’t stop it from crossing the line. Now, we thought, the goals will flow. Nope.
Fulham came out and looked far more dangerous and at half time you thought Chelsea would regroup and sweep the second half like they did against Everton.
Instead, it was more of the same with Fulham controlling play and Chelsea playing on the counter. Hasselbaink had a close-range header saved after a marvellous run by Le Saux and then Lampard contrived to miss the chance of the season. Taylor awkwardly saved a close range shot by Gallas and the ball slipped invitingly along the goal line to Lampard storming in. Somehow the ball hit the crossbar and rebounded out, the only explanation being that Taylor somehow got a hand to the ball as Lampard shot.
Fulham were still looking dangerous with Desailly and Terry not at all comfortable. Gudjohnsen came on for Gronkjaer after an hour, although most of us would have preferred to see the pathetic De Lucas replaced by anyone on the bench, even de Goey.
Then the goal came. Boa Morte turned past Desailly and ran into the box. He seemed to lose the chance when he checked back instead of shooting, but he worked an opening and fired a left-foot shot into the far corner.
There was still enough time for use to do something, especially with Gudjohnsen looking a danger whenever he got the ball, but the best chances feel to Fulham. Jon Harley almost made a storybook return to the Bridge by wriggling through to go one on one with Cudicini. The shot was weak and Le Saux scrambled it clear from behind the goalie.
Collins, on as a sub, clipped the bar with a curling shot and then we nearly snatched an undeserved win when Gudjohnsen just fired wide in the last minute with his shirt being tugged by a Fulham defender.
So, it ended and we face a trip to West Ham next. The odds are not good. We still haven’t beaten another London side this season, except for Charlton.
That capital flaw could cost us a Champions League spot.
CUDICINI 7 – Had no chance on the goal and did everything else right.
GALLAS 6 – Rarely able to get forward with effect and had problems in defence, especially when De Lucas was back to “help”.
TERRY 7 – One of the few in blue to show a will to win and was generally solid.
DESAILLY 5 – One of his worst games for us. His missed tackle allowed Boa Morte in for the equaliser.
LE SAUX 6 – Also had problems in defence from the fast, hustling Fulham forwards, but looked the most promising going forward. A great run should have brought the second goal.
DE LUCAS 3 – Consistently awful. Was a liability in attack and defence. Fulham soon realised that with De Lucas defending on the back end of one-twos, they could have success. Shouldn’t play again this season.
PETIT 6 – Did his job as the holding midfielder, but could never establish control with Lampard, who were overwhelmed by numbers.
LAMPARD 6 – Like Petit, was crowded in midfield. Made some good runs, one of which could, maybe should, have seen us win a penalty midway through the first half. But how did he miss the second-half sitter?
GRONKJAER 4 – Started brightly and got behind the defence a couple of times on the left. Then disappeared and reappeared on the right side. None of his tricks worked, usually resulting in us losing possession cheaply.
HASSELBAINK 4 – The game typified his season. Misfired on almost everything he tried.
ZOLA, 7 – The only source of creativity.
GUDJOHNSEN (for Gronkjaer, 59) 7 – Looked consistently dangerous when he came on. Obviously Claudio doesn’t think he and Zola work well together because there’s no reason for JFH to consistently get the nod ahead of him.
MELCHIOT (for Gallas, 72) 7 – Gave us more attacking options on the right side.
MORRIS (for De Lucas, 72), 5 – Was an improvement on De Lucas, of course, but he couldn’t provide the creativity we badly needed at that stage.