Carlos Bocanegra stunned Stamford Bridge by firing home a late equaliser to grab Fulham a point in the west London derby and leave Chelsea six points behind Manchester United at the top of the table.
Didier Drogba appeared to have captured all three points for Chelsea with a typically predatory second half strike, but Bocanegra’s close range equaliser six minutes from time earned a draw for Chris Coleman’s men. Jose Mourinho cut a disappointed figure down on the touchline as the concession of another soft goal – the second of the afternoon – emphasised the gaping hole at the heart of the champions’ defence in the absence of John Terry. Had the England defender not been sidelined by a back injury, you wouldn’t have imagined Moritz Volz slaloming onto a throw-in to strike the Premiership’s 15,000th goal from distance and Chelsea have now conceded eight goals in his absence.
Michael Essien twice went close to grabbing an early goal before laying on a chance for Solomon Kalou but the Chelsea forward fired woefully wide. They paid the penalty when Fulham took the lead from their first serious attack. Volz was an unlikely scorer of the landmark top flight goal and the ease with which he exploited a dummy from Tomasz Radzinski to lash a lovely volley beyond Hilario would have infuriated Mourinho.
The visitors should have doubled their lead after 25 minutes but Wayne Routledge drove over from the edge of the box when unmarked – and Chelsea levelled ten minutes later. Liam Rosenior couldn’t clear Makele’s cross and Frank Lampard’s drive deflected off the unfortunate full-back leaving Antti Niemi no chance. Fulham almost restored their advantage just after half time when Hilario just about clawed away Brian McBride’s header after more hesitant defending.
That was enough for Mourinho to act, sending on Andriy Shevchenko in a bid to perk up Chelsea’s subdued attack. The substitution did the trick as Drogba bulleted home a header from six yards out from Lampard’s cross to score his sixth goal in as many games. The Ivorian had admitted earlier this week that he had briefly considered leaving Stamford Bridge earlier in the season – but where would Chelsea be without their first 20-goal striker in a decade?
Mourinho might need to consider going into the market for a centre back if he wants to keep Chelsea’s hopes of retaining their title alive. Paulo Ferreira had a nightmare at the heart of the home back four and Fulham reaped the rewards of their unstinting belief when they levelled with six minutes left. Michael Essien flailed at a Franck Quedrue cross and, although Hilario denied McBride brilliantly, Bocanegra was on hand to sweep home the equaliser to the delight of the travelling fans.
CHELSEA (4-4-2): Hilario; Geremi (Shevchenko 57), Ferreira, Carvalho, A. Cole; Essien, Ballack, Makelele (Wright-Phillips 86), Lampard; Drogba, Kalou (Bridge 80). Subs (not used): Hedman, Morais.
GOALS: Rosenior (o.g. 35), Drogba (62).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Queudrue, Christanval, Bocanegra; Volz, Brown, Routledge, Radzinski; McBride, John (Boa Morte 68). Subs (not used): Batista, Zakuani, Omozusi, Runstrom.
BOOKED: Queudrue (86).
GOALS: Volz (16), Bocanegra (84).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).