Fulham could consider themselves unfortunate not to have beaten Chelsea after a dour SW6 derby was dominated by disciplined defences at Loftus Road tonight. Neither neighbour set up to stifle the other but clear-cut chances were at a premium throughout a tense contest that ended in a goalless draw.
Jean Tigana declared himself pleased with Fulham’s resolution, which played a big part in extending Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s wait for a league goal this season, if not the absence of attacking flair but their bitter rivals created precious little as well. The Dutchman shot wastefully over from seventeen yards after being played into space by Gianfranco Zola, but Steve Marlet missed an even easier chance after a quarter of hour after escaping the attentions of Robert Huth to reach Steed Malbranque’s magnificent cross only to head wide.
Huth might have marked his first Premiership start with a goal but mistimed his far-post from Zola’s free-kick with the goal gaping before Boulo Zenden fired right across goal and Hasselbaink headed over after outjumping Alain Goma. The Whites were just as threatening in an even first half but Barry Hayles fired off target when in a good position and Carlo Cudicini made a smart save to thwart Junichi Inamoto.
Hasselbaink’s woes in front of goal continued into the second half when he sent a diving header wide from an Enrique de Lucas cross. Marlet came closer with an ambitious effort from distance, but further chances were limited as both sides’ penchant for pretty passing cancelled either out. The visitors almost snatched victory in the dying stages with substitute Jesper Gronkjaer denied by Edwin van der Sar just after coming on and the Dutch goalkeeper successfully smothered a late long-ranger from distance to ensure Fulham got a point. That was the least that Tigana’s battlers deserved.
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Ouaddoh, Wome, Knight, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Inamoto (Boa Morte 62), Malbranque; Hayles, Marlet. Subs (not used): Herrera, Melville, Clark, Sava.
CHELSEA (3-5-2): Cudicini; Melchiot, Huth, Gallas; Stanic, De Lucas, Lampard, Morris, Zenden (Gronkjaer 66); Hasselbaink, Zola (Gudjohnsen 74). Subs (not used): de Goey, Bogarde, Keenan.
REFEREE: Paul Durkin (Dorset).