Chelsea won their second penalty shoot-out in nine attempts and first at Stamford Bridge in over a decade after a 0-0 draw against neighbours Fulham, who only managed to sell around half their allocation, in The Carling Cup 3rd round.
An experimental and youthful looking Chelsea side, including youngsters Bertrand, Romeu, Mceachran and Lukaku, took to the field against a fairly unrecognisable Fulham team, Martin Jol’s depleted and tired squad forced into changes following earlier Europa League exploits which made this their fifteenth game of the season.
Andre, who stated he will take a less vigorous approach to the competition than his former mentor Jose Mourinho whilst still trying hard to win the competition, named an extremely strong bench including stalwarts Terry, Lampard and Drogba, while fulcrums of the side at the end of last season Alex, Luiz, Malouda and Kalou, all of whom haven’t played many minutes this term for various reasons, got starting berths. He won’t have been too pleased that we were forced to play 120 minutes, more than an hour of which with 10 men after Alex’s sending off.
There was not much action to speak of in the very early stages as both sides struggled to get a foothold in the game. Sturridge and Kalou had early chances but both shot wide, whilst Sa looked lively at the over end and almost capitalised on an Alex and Cech mix up at one stage. Mceachran, having taken over set-piece duties for this game, put a good ball in from an inswinging free-kick but the danger was quickly averted as the Blues struggled to find a way past the experienced central defensive pairing of Senderos and Grygera. More half chances came, including Malouda’s shot hitting the side netting, without anything noteworthy occurring until Josh’s ball was tapped in on the line by Daniel Sturridge, who was adjudged to have been offside. Sturridge’s night got worst just moments later when he went off injured, a worrying moment for the lad, who has performed well since returning from suspension, and was replaced by Frank Lampard.
Chelsea were rueing their luck when Cech went down just before half time and was replaced by Turnbull at the break, worrying times for the Blues in a competition that has seen us lose key players due to injury in the past.
A lively start to the second half saw Lampard put in a nice through ball to Kalou, who hit the side netting, with many in the ground thinking we had taken the lead. Disaster then struck at the opposite end as Alex was sent off for a professional foul and Turnbull was forced into facing a penalty just two minutes after coming on. He was delighted when Kasami’s penalty crashed off the crossbar and the score remained goalless, the second penalty miss against us in two games after Rooney’s miss on Sunday. As a result of the red card, Terry came on for Josh, who had performed well alongside Romeu. Chelsea began to dominate possession despite being a man down, but there was a lack of effectiveness and not enough chances created. Lukaku ran the Fulham backline ragged on occasions but looked uncomfortable putting crosses in from the wing and began to tire towards the end of the game. Romeu, who impressed on his full debut, did make one mistake by giving the ball away deep in the Chelsea half, but quickly accounted for his error.
Fulham also had spells where they were attacking in numbers and could have scored was it not for a couple of great saves by Turnbull. They brought on Zamora to try and seize the initiative, but neither side could find the net before the 90 was up and the game headed for extra time.
Chelsea started brightest in extra time, Lukaku was blocked by Schwarzer and went down disturbingly, but luckily regained his composure after some cramp. Luiz blasted well over and after a Zamora challenge on him went unpunished, referee Chris Foy finally gave out the first yellow card of the game to Fulham’s Frei. Lampard, who many say needs to become more defensive as he ages, was the next and last player to be cautioned, for a bad tackle after he made a couple of well-timed lunges at the same time as continually trying to get forward and create something. Terry and Luiz were both seen making their way deep into the Fulham half in attempts to stop the impending threat of penalties, but neither could make anything of a seize of Chelsea attacks, with Luiz shooting way over. Romeu and Lampard also both had attempts that they hit over the bar, as did Zamora. Sidwell, a former Blue, had a chance to win the game for Fulham in the dying moments, when he cleanly latched on to a Kelly cross, which just nestled over the bar. There was then a hearts in mouths moment as Baird prepared to take a free kick for Fulham n the 121st and final minute, but it was headed wide without danger.
The inevitable penalty shoot out, which Chelsea fans on recent form now fear as much as England, began with Frank Lampard, usually so reliable from the spot, having his spot kick saved by Schwarzer. Worries of a repeat of the penalty defeats to Charlton, Burnley and Blackburn in this competition were prevalent on Chelsea minds, particularly after Zamora slotted his kick home. Luiz and Sidwell, after an altercation between the two, both scored, as did the next taker Terry, before Dembele’s kick was saved by a delighted Turnbull in front of the Matthew Harding stand. Kalou, Baird and Malouda all scored which meant Fulham’s deadline day signing Ruiz had to score to keep them in the competition. He became the second Fulham player to hit the crossbar from the spot on the night and sent Chelsea into the fourth round of the Carling Cup, the draw for which is on Saturday, the day where two of Mourinho’s former disciples meet when we face Swansea fully expecting to get three points.