Luis Boa Morte’s first half strike delivered Fulham’s first win over Chelsea for 27 years sparking a pitch invasion and ugly scenes after the final whistle at Craven Cottage.
Fulham will certainly face punishment from the Football Association over the incidents that followed the immediate aftermath of the game – but those scenes should not detract from the manner in which Chris Coleman, who had been tipped for the sack in some quarters earlier this week, masterminded only Jose Mourinho’s third league defeat of the season. The Fulham manager craftily asked his chief playmaker, the pint-sized Steed Malbranque, to mark Claude Makele when Chelsea were in possession and it totally befuddled the league leaders.
Mourinho hauled off Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole within 25 minutes but tellingly chose to focus his post-match ire on the decision to disallow Didier Drogba’s second half equaliser. Given that the Ivorian striker had clearly used his hand to propel the ball past Mark Crossley before rolling into an unguarded net, it was a specious argument to suggest that neither Dean nor his assistant referee could have spotted the offence. Drogba certainly celebrated like nothing had happened – but his own joy, or bravado, was quickly curtailed.
In truth, Chelsea were off colour from the outset. For a side who needed just two wins to secure the title, Mourinho’s men appeared lethargic and couldn’t match Fulham’s intensity. They were fortunate not to concede an early penalty when John Terry upended Moritz Volz after latching onto Malbranque’s clever chip.
Fulham’s tenacity was summed up by the winning goal. Mark Pembridge made the most of being left unattended a throw-in to find Boa Morte, who played a one-two at pace with Malbranque, and burst towards the box. An optimistic shot spun off John Terry and when Paulo Ferreira tried to clear, Boa Morte blocked and the ball bounced off Portuguese winger’s shin and past Petr Cech. It might have been lucky, but a jubilant Craven Cottage didn’t care.
Chelsea seemed rattled. Robert Huth was booked for a wild challenge on Boa Morte and was replaced at half-time. Pembridge, who was outstanding in midfield, played through Collins John only for the Dutch striker to shoot straight at Cech, and then struck a post with a low drive in the second half. Then, just before the hour, came the moment that so rankled with Mourinho. Drogba reached a long ball from Ricardo Carvalho before Zat Knight, nudging it around Crossley – who dashed dementedly from his line – and rolling a finish into the empty net. Dean appeared to have given the goal, but Boa Morte led Fulham protests, that saw the referee consult with his assistant and Drogba was promptly cautioned for handball.
Craven Cottage erupted once more as if Fulham had scored again. They probably needed to as, in attempting to protect their slender lead, Coleman’s side encouraged a Chelsea onslaught. Knight marshalled Fulham’s defence superbly but the Fulham goal was under siege by the end. William Gallas had a header cleared off the line, Drogba headed against the bar and Crossley saved superbly from Terry. You felt it wasn’t going to be Chelsea’s day when Damien Duff did brilliantly to fashion a glorious chance for Frank Lampard, but the England midfielder sidefooted into the Putney End from eight yards out.
Chelsea played out injury time with ten men after Gallas was dismissed for a dangerous lunge at Heidar Helguson as the Icelandic international shielded the ball. The French defender took an age to leave the field, playing the role of pantomime villain as he gave thumbs down gestures to the Johnny Haynes stand. The final whistle brought crazy scenes belonging to the bad era of hooliganism but Coleman could deservedly savour what he described as ‘the best win of my management career’.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Crossley; Volz, Rosenior, Knight, Pearce; Pembridge, Brown, Malbranque (Christanval 89), Boa Morte; John (Helguson 71), McBride. Subs (not used): Warner, N. Jensen, Radzinski.
GOAL: Boa Morte (17).
CHELSEA (4-1-4-1): Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Terry, Huth (Ricardo Carvalho 45), Gallas; Makele; Wright-Phillips (Duff 26),Lampard, Essien, Joe Cole (Drogba 26); Crespo. Subs (not used): Cudicini, Maniche.
BOOKED: Huth, Carvalho, Drogba, Makele.
SENT OFF: Gallas (90).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirrall).