Fulham’s reserves let a two-goal lead slip as they drew with Chelsea at Motspur Park last night.
Billy McKinlay’s played the better football in the first period and earned a justified reward for their high-tempo start. The first chance was fashioned by a fine through ball from Tom Donegan with the young midfielder sending Orlando Sa clean through on goal, but Chelsea goalkeeper Jamal Blackman sprinted out of his goal to beat the Portuguese striker to the ball. Blackman showed impressive agility to turn Bjorn Helge Riise’s first-time shot over the bar.
The Blues then threatend themselves with Milan Lalkovic going to ground under a Dan Burn challenge in the penalty area but the referee waved away Chelsea’s penalty appeals. Left back Ben Gordon lacked a bit of composure in front of goal, with his close range shot parried by Csaba Somogyi.
Fulham took the lead in the twelfth minute as the unmarked Sa rose to head home an accurate Riise cross after Chelsea had failed to clear a corner. The marking might have been apologetic but Sa’s athleticism was an impressive sign at a time when Fulham are short of physical options up front.
Chelsea might have managed an equaliser from a free-kick when Billy Clifford’s excellent delivery found Lucas Piazon but the Brazilian’s deft header drifted agonisingly wide.
The home side doubled their lead in the 27th minute. Alex Kacaniklic split the Chelsea defence with a terrific through ball and Donegan raced away from Rohan Ince down the right before sending a low shot past Blackman to the delight of the home crowd. It might have got even better before the break, but Sa had a goal ruled out for offside – as he side-footed home a Riise cross. Chelsea might have halved their arrears just before the whistle, but Somogyi produced a fine save to keep out Piazon’s shot after fine approach play from Todd Kane.
Dermot Drummy must have had stern words with his side at half-time as they emerged far more adventurous and gradually began to take control of the contest. Ten minutes into the second period, a fine run from Lalkovic presented Nathaniel Chalobah with a glorious opportunity but the Chelsea captain could only guide his shot wide. Fulham were only spasmodically threatening on the break, but Blackman did brilliantly to palm away a Sa shot after he had turned Carl Magnay inside out.
Chelsea did get a goal back midway through the second half when Chalobah surged away from three tackles and floated a deep cross to the back post, where Lalkovic arrived to finish clinically on the half-volley. Moments later, Magnay inexplicably stabbed wide when left unattended at the far post but Fulham’s reprieve was only temporary. Chalobah climbed highest to head home a Clifford corner and suddenly the game had turned on its head.
The Blues had a glorious chance to seal their comeback three minutes from time when Josh Pritchard was adjudged to have fouled Piazon in the box. But Lalkovic blazed the penalty over the bar – and the spoils were shared.
FULHAM RESERVES (4-5-1): Somogyi; Brister, Kavanagh (Banya 70), Burn, Pritchard; Minkwitz, B.H. Riise, Harris, Kacaniklic, Donegan (Dean 88); Sa. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Bettache, Safo Tieku.
GOALS: Sa (12), Donegan (27).
CHELSEA RESERVES (4-3-3): Blackman; Kane, Ince, Magnay (Deen-Conteh 72), Gordon; Clifford, Chalobah, Saville; Lalkovic, Mitrovic, Piazon. Subs (not used): Taylor, Ake, Prosenik, Feruz.
GOALS: Lalkovic (66), Chalobah (70).