Chris Coleman was proud of his battling Fulham players despite their narrow defeat by Chelsea in a Boxing Day thriller at Stamford Bridge.

The Whites fought back from 2-0 down to level through strikes from Heidar Helguson and Brian McBride before a stunning strike from Hernan Crespo put Chelsea back in front. The Fulham boss refused to overtly condemned referee Graham Poll after the official missed a clear handball by John Terry as the visitors pushed for a late leveller.

Coleman told his post-match press conference: “We were without two of our strongest players today, Papa Bouba Diop and[Steed Malbranque, but credit to the guys who played today – I thought they were magnificent” I’m very proud of the players and the effort they put in today. We played very well for long periods against, in my view, the best team in the league.

“Today we’ve surprised them but there are a lot of positives for us to take away from today. We must maintain our enthusiasm and work rate – that must continue.” We changed our formation a little bit and gave Heidar Helguson a run today who I thought was absolutely outstanding along with McBride. We caused them problems all afternoon and at 2-0 down we showed a lot of courage to get back into the game – we fancied our chances but it wasn’t to be.”

“We were nervous in the first 10 minutes and didn’t defend properly at the corner for Gallas’ goal. Then they got the second and it was important we didn’t fold. But then we got the goal back and showed tremendous spirit and courage.

“We got a deserved equaliser and were looking to win the game. Overall it was a tremendous performance from us.”

He added on the Terry handball: “There was no doubt it was a penalty, but two penalties at Stamford Bridge at the moment? It was a stone cold penalty. There could have been one in our box with Zat Knight, but their handball should definitely have been a penalty.”