A moment of brilliance from Luis Boa Morte secured a precious point for Fulham at Stamford Bridge as Chris Coleman’s side edged closer to Premiership safety by earning a share of the spoils in the SW6 derby.
Chelsea appeared content to settle for the scrappiest of successes – sitting on the slender lead that arrived courtesy of a first half own goal from Alain Goma. Claudio Ranieri’s men were punished for their lack of ambition when Portuguese winger Boa Morte equalised midway through the second half, bamboozling Marcel Desailly as he cut in from the right flank and curled a fabulous finish into the top corner. The visitors might even have won it late on when substitute John Collins’ lifted a cheeky chip onto the roof of the net.
The draw left Chelsea playing catch up in the race for the Champions’ League spots as Newcastle moved above the Blues into third and Liverpool are now level on points with Ranieri’s side in fourth. It looked as though they wouldn’t have to worry about dropping points as they dominated both possession and territory in what began as a low-key derby, creating a series of good chances. As it was the goal, the hosts scored was fortunate to stand after John Terry forced the ball goalwards with his arm from Gianfranco Zola’s free-kick – and it only went off the luckless Goma.
Fulham almost hit back immediately with Elvis Hammond profiting from a poor piece of defending by William Gallas and forcing a sharp save from Carlo Cudicini. The Italian goalkeeper had to save well from Lee Clark before half time as Chris Coleman’s side continued to push for an equaliser. They did have Maik Taylor for thank for keeping the deficit at just 1-0 as the Northern Ireland goalkeeper made a sensational double save to deny Gallas and Frank Lampard, whose follow-up he turned onto the bar, just before the break.
Chelsea’s prolificacy in front of goal came back to haunt them midway through the second half when Boa Morte beat Desailly and struck a sublime equaliser to round off a flowing counter-attack began by boyhood Chelsea fan Sean Davis keeping the ball alive in Fulham’s left back position. Both sides went all out for the win in the last twenty minutes when Graeme Le Saux and Eidur Gudjohnsen going close, but it was Fulham who finished on the front foot with Collins and substitute Barry Hayles almost forcing a famous win for the Whites.
CHELSEA (4-4-2): Cudicini, Gallas (Melchiot 72), Desailly, Terry, Le Saux, De Lucas (Morris 72), Lampard, Petit, Gronkjaer (Gudjohnsen 59), Zola, Hasselbaink. Subs (not used): de Goey, Cole.
BOOKED: Petit, Gronkjaer, Terry.
GOAL: Goma (o.g. 39).
FULHAM (4-5-1): Taylor; Finnan, Harley, Melville, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Clark, Malbranque (Hayles 83), Boa Morte (Collins 83); Hammond. Subs (not used): van der Sar, Sava, Knight.
BOOKED: Boa Morte, Clark.
GOAL: Boa Morte (67).
REFEREE: David Elleray (Middlesex).