A game very reminiscent of Arsenal away. They decide not to put pressure on us, for whatever reason, and exploiting the fact that every single one of our players, down to the goalkeeper, is very comfortable on the ball, we could keep possession and build a threat on the Chelsea goal, particuarly in the first half. Also reminiscent of Arsenal was when Chelsea pushed up really aggressively in the last 20 minutes we struggled to get out of our half but thanks to some fantastic defending and wonderful goalkeeping we preserved the point we deserved.
Stockdale – 8, when you look at it Stockdale didn’t have to pull off many wonder saves; the reflex stop from Malouda’s backheel and the anticipation to close down Torres’ volley aside, they were pretty much regulation stops and it would have been disappointing if they went in. However, he had to deal with alot of them, and when he did he dealt with the stops with assurance, his saves weren’t fumbled but they were all caught or palmed to relative safety. There weren’t many instances of having to rush out along the floor or claim difficult crosses although there was one ball in which he gathered with a one hand which he did well to get to. He made a couple of mistakes with his kicking and sometimes gave the ball to players who were heavily marked but on the whole he played it with his feet well, including some nice accurate mid-range passes.
Hangeland – 7.5, gave the ball away ridiculously a couple of times, playing short passes when really you needed to boot it clear. But otherwise he had a really good game, playing an important role in distributing from the back (several times he wondered forward unchallenged and fizzed a ball into Sa) and got his head to the ball to make some very very important clearances, there was one diving header he made to nick the ball away from two Chelsea players in the box waiting to convert a cross. Maybe could or should have closed down Mata for his strike but I’d lay the blame more at Dempsey for that.
Senderos – 7, like Hangeland he lost possession dangerously on more than one occassion but also passed it on well on the whole, and lest we forget it was Senderos’ adventurous stroll forward which initiated the attack which lead to the goal, and his accurate header which found Ruiz one-on-one with Cole. Defensively he did well too, although the challenge he put on Torres for the goal was fairly meek and both Torres and Drogba peeled off successfully a couple of times. But another impressive performance by the ever-improving Swiss.
Kelly – 7, it’s hard to believe that there was a time that if Kelly was named even on the bench every Fulham fan to a man would moan, but this season he has won over almost everyone and certainly appears to be the player most improved since May. Willing to get forward, his runs give Ruiz that bit more space at times, although his own end product is disappointing too often for my liking (but what a cross that was for Sa!), and defensively he is strong, quick and good in the air. A fine performance and I think the only member of our back five that didn’t give the ball away in his final third.
Riise – 7, he is starting to make more of those trademark runs into the box and to the byline now, and we are seeing more of the Riise that many of us wanted. He afforded Bosingwa too much space in the first half but he was noticeably more subdued in the second half.
Murphy – 7.5, Murphy yesterday played an out and out defensive midfield role with almost no ambition with his forward runs, which is not a criticism of someone who had to hold all the midfield defensive responsibility. In what would have been a demanding position he orchestrated our defensive unit well, and with such an experimental and attacking line up our discipline and shape were superb, Chelsea really couldn’t pass through us at all (the chances they made were long balls, set pieces or through our own making). In terms of our offensive play, Murphy gave the ball away a host of times, but also dictated much of our attacking moves too. His ambitious passes were often awry but very often it was Murphy collecting the ball off our defenders to start attacks and he was always showing for the ball.
Dembele – 8, another imperious performance from the Belgian who is winning fans all over the country. There is no defender he can’t beat it seems, and one of the best moments of the match was when he put Terry on his arse, twice in the same move, before back heeling to Kelly who exploited the space to cross. His makes a huge contribution towards our defensive work too and I think there was a crazy stat saying he won 10 of 12 attempted tackles. Playing deeper than he usually does he could pick the ball up and run at the defence which he did to great effect. His passing is still fairly limited as is his vision but, as we’ve seen from the probing through balls that are becoming more common, he is improving in that regard and his flair and creativity are unquestionable.
Dempsey – 8, Dempsey aka goal poacher extraordinaire. Are there many midfielders who’s movement is like his? Even Lampard, famed for his goal scoring record, played nothing like him (a lot were more spectacular finishes). But long may it continue. Aside from his intelligent goal he passed the ball well and generally remained disciplined in what was an unfamiliar role for him; I’ve seen Dembele play in a 3 in midfield for us before but not Dempsey. You could see however where we would miss Etuhu when Mata took the touch for his goal; Dempsey was slow to anticipate whereas Etuhu would have been more likely to nick the ball of his toe in the D of the area. That’s being quite harsh on Dempsey though.
Ruiz – 7.5, another majestic assist for Ruiz who made Cole look silly before sending in the most inviting of inviting crosses. His touch was immaculate all match and he rarely wasted the ball, and he pulled off a lovely bit of skill when he juggled the ball under the challenge of two Chelsea players. Really is in a class of his own. Defensively he will has his limitations, he’s not lazy I think but he’s not very strong in the tackle, like when Malouda just breezed past him with barely a tackle. But I can gloss over that if he makes Ashley Cole look stupid every now and again.
Frei – 7, a first league start and it formed a nice symmetry with his first Fulham start, also against Chelsea in the League Cup earlier this year. He continues to impress with his burst of acceleration, ball control, direct play and penchant for a sweet turn. He let Bosingwa go a few times in the first half which demonstrates still that he is not so disciplined but that will come in time. The sweet thing about Frei is that he can both cut inside on his stronger right foot or beat his man and go round the outsider to the byline. This of course used to be Duff’s niche, so does the beginning of Frei spell the end of Duff? They are still a bit different, Duff is more likely to put a cross in (I don’t think Frei put one in, especially from deep) whereas Frei will commit players so the space they leave can be exploited, but they are still our ‘wide-men’. Exciting times.
Sa – 6.5, I wasn’t so sure about Sa when I heard he was starting but actually as a lone man Sa did what was required. He showed for the ball and layed it off accurately. He ran off the defenders to collect the ball to feet and was quite active in that which is more than we can say for Zamora this season. It was a shocking miss though in the first half, and too many times he dropped way too deep while defending, but he did okay that’s for sure.
Kasami – N/A, came on with 8 minutes to go up front, which is an unusual position for him but he was just there to put himself about a bit and to put more pressure on the deeper Chelsea midfielders it seems. But we missed Sa for sure when he came off. Kasami actually had a decent chance to win the came, although it was a tricky shot to pull off.