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Chris Coleman believes Fulham’s spirited performance against Chelsea has provided the belief needed to emerge from the Christmas schedule in a strong position.

Fulham were written off ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge but gave Chelsea a difficult time before finally succumbing to Hernan Crespo’s 74th minute winner.

The Barclays Premiership champions deserved their 3-2 triumph but Coleman has taken heart from the display ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Aston Villa.

“It wasn’t a case of us not expecting to beat Chelsea and concentrating on our home games. We can’t be as flippant as that. I’ve always felt that you must maintain your momentum,” he said.

“To go to Chelsea and put in a lacklustre performance because nobody fancied us would have been too easy, and I don’t agree with it. I believe you have to approach every game in the same way.

“Without us being arrogant, because we can’t afford to that, we had to go to Chelsea and have a go at them. That will stand us in good stead for these games coming over such a short space of time.

“We’ve started on the right foot and although he we didn’t get the result, we gave one hell of a performance.”

Injury meant Coleman was forced to pair Brian McBride and Heidar Helguson up front against Jose Mourinho’s side, but the Fulham boss was delighted with their goal-scoring partnership and will use them in tandem against Villa.

“The Chelsea defence never settled and they’re the best in the league,” he said.

“We were all over them. John Terry is the best defender in the league and Robert Huth is very strong in the air, but McBride and Helguson terrorised them all afternoon.

“Our aim was to unsettle them and try to deny them the chance to pass it out from the back, which we managed. That gave us confidence.”

Coleman has described Wednesday’s clash with Villa – who thumped Everton 4-0 yesterday – as a “must-win” game and called for more of the commitment shown at Stamford Bridge.

“We looked at the bigger picture before we kicked a ball against Chelsea,” he said.

“We deserved at least a point against Chelsea but every time you lose a game, the next one becomes a must-win no matter where you are in the league or how far down the line you are in the season.

“Now we have to beat Villa and approach it in the same way we did against Chelsea. The lads will be a little bit fatigued but it will be the same for Villa.

“Then we have Portsmouth and Sunderland, teams who are in and around us, so they were big games even before we kicked a ball against Chelsea.”