This derby defeat was harsh on Fulham. It might have showed an improvement from their mauling at the hands of Chelsea last month and, even the abject defeat by Blackburn at the weekend, but it still proved tough to take. Frank Lampard delivered the knockout blow two minutes from time – after the Whites had grabbed a deserved equaliser through Brian McBride – but Edwin van der Sar will have nightmares about letting the England midfielder’s shot slip through his hands as extra time loomed.
Fulham showed no signs of fearing their illustrious opponents – even with six changes this Chelsea squad still possessed some of the country’s leading talent. The hosts began brightly with Mark Pembridge’s sightsetter from range deflecting wide off the body of Ricardo Carvalho and Andy Cole nodding narrowly off target.
Fulham’s adventurous start continued with Cole almost finding McBride with a lovely ball across the area and Pembridge going close with another rising drive from distance. Sylvain Legwinski signalled that the Whites were willing to test Carlo Cudicini at every opportunity by firing just off target from a long way out – and Chelsea appeared momentarily rocked by the ferociousness of Fulham’s opening.
They gradually gained a foothold with Arjen Robben inevitability to the fore. The Dutch winger, who destroyed Fulham here in their league meeting last month, extended van der Sar from 25 yards after sauntering beyond Mark Pembridge – nearly sneaking a shot in at the near post. Carlos Bocanegra did well to snuff out the danger when Robben roamed infield again and Fulham finished the half on the front foot with Pembridge drawing a smart save from Cudicini and Cole nearly racing away from the visiting defence.
van der Sar saved well as Glen Johnson took aim from range at the start of the second period before referee Steve Dunn ignored strong Fulham claims for a penalty when the Chelsea full-back appeared to block another Pembridge piledriver with his arm. Cole perhaps should have done better than clip the far post with a header – and Mourinho’s men punished Fulham in their next attack.
Robben linked up with Duff, who ventured infield and struck a shot goalwards that van der Sar appeared to have covered – until it took a wicked deflection off Ian Pearce and careered into the other side of the goal. That misfortune didn’t dampen Fulham’s resolve with Papa Bouba Diop heading onto the roof of the net and the arrival of academy graduate Elvis Hammond paid almost instant dividends.
Within a minute, the 24 year-old striker surged onto Steed Malbranque’s measured pass to pull a cross back from the byline and McBride fired past Cudicini from close range. Mourinho responded by sending on Lampard as a late substitute and the midfielder delivered – as he so often does against Fulham – although van der Sar should have prevented his 20 yard drive from clinching this contest.
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Volz, Bocangera, Pearce, Rehman; Diop, Pembridge, Legwinski, Malbranque; A. Cole (Hammond 73), McBride. Subs (not used): Flitney, Rosenior, Green, Radzinski.
GOAL: McBride (74).
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cudicini; Johnson, Carvalho, Terry, Bridge; Smertin, Makelele, Parker; Robben (J. Cole 62), Duff (Lampard 76), Drogba (Gudjohnsen 58). Subs (not used): Cech, Ferreira.
GOALS: Duff (55), Lampard (88).
REFEREE: Steve Dunn (Gloucestershire).