Fulham reserves came from behind twice against Chelsea in the local derby at Cobham this afternoon – only to lose to a hotly disputed penalty.
Ray Lewington’s side could console themselves with the knowledge that there were the equals of their neighbours, dominating possession and carving out several chances, and that they were unfortunate not to leave with at least a point. The new Fulham reserves coach, who could be heard bellowing instructions from the touchline throughout, will have been disappointed with Fulham’s failure to finish and some naive defending which ultimately cost his side dear.
A young Chelsea side made the perfect start to the contest as Billy Clifford burst past a couple of defenders and squared for young Romelu Lukaku, who proved a real handful all afternoon for the Fulham defence, to finish from close range. The visitors almost hit back straight away, however, when Buomesca Tue Na Bangna saw a side-footed effort well saved by James Russell. The Blues had opportunities to extend their lead, with striker Patrick Bamford particularly culpable, as his weak shot was far from threatening.
Fulham gradually began to come into the game with Swiss midfielder Pajtim Kasami becoming increasing influential. The former Palermo man might have done better with his first opportunity, dragging a shot horribly wide. Chelsea goalkeeper Russell did well to smother his dangerous free-kick before a raking through pass released Australian winger Ryan Williams. The former Portsmouth teenager tried to chip Russell, but the goalkeeper was up to the challenge and gathered his attempted lob.
Also exerting a greater hold over proceedings was Fulham’s precocious teenager Kerim Frei, who shot to prominence in the League Cup tie between the two sides back in October. The 19 year-old Swiss youth international, who has featured in both of Lewington’s line-ups since he took charge of the reserves from Billy McKinlay, tricked his way into the penalty area and created enough of an angle for a shot, with his effort being deflected just wide. Frei wasn’t to be denied, however, as he curled a terrific free-kick past an apologetic Chelsea wall to equalise on the stroke of half-time.
The second half started at quite a pace and the home side were the first to threaten. Clifford led a swift counter-attack and Jeremie Boga went close to restoring their lead from the edge of the penalty area. At the other end, Fulham had plenty of possession inside the Chelsea box but Italian striker Marcello Trotta, so red-hot when he was on loan at Wycombe, was having a miserable day in front of goal. His finishing was letting him down and when Trotta did send an effort on target – it was invariably blocked by a defender or smothered by Russell.
Against the run of play, Chelsea were back in front midway through the second half. Bamford was unfortunate to see his clever header come back off the post from Aziz Deen-Conteh’s cross, but Fulham failed to pick up Ismail Seremba’s run and the Chelsea substitution had the easiest of finishes. Lewington’s men roused themselves again and were rewarded after a sustained spell of pressure resulted in an equaliser. Kasami lashed home from fully 25 yards – converted possibly his most difficult chance of the afternoon – after a Trotta shot had bounced to apparent safety off a defender.
Confirmation that Fulham’s luck was most definitely out came from the restart. The referee awarded a debatable penalty when Clifford tumbled under a challenge from the unfortunate Jack Grimmer. There appeared to be minimal contact and the tackle seemed to have taken place outside the box. To add insult to injury, Fulham’s recent signing from Aberdeen also received a caution for his trouble. Csaba Somogyi went the right way and got a hand to Bamford’s spot-kick, but couldn’t keep the penalty area.
The Hungarian was also forced into smart saves from Bamford and Alex Kiwomya before Lukaku, capitalising on a horrible mix-up in the Fulham defence, raced clear in stoppage time. The Belgian cut inside and, faced with only Somogyi to beat from fourteen yards, sliced his shot wide.
CHELSEA RESERVES (4-2-1-3): Russell, Ashton, Ince, Davey, Deen-Conteh; C. Clifford (Seremba 15), Mellis (Nortey 45); B. Clifford; Boga, Bamford (Kiwomya 76), Lukaku. Subs (not used): Beeney, Bangura.
FULHAM RESERVES (4-4-1-1): Somogyi; Grimmer, Smith, Harris, Burn; Pritchard (Kavanagh 80), Williams (Dalla Valle), Frei, Na Bangna; Kasami; Trotta. Subs: Smith, Passley, Trialist.