There seems to be no stopping Clint Dempsey these days. His brace at Bolton carried Fulham into the Premier League’s top half and another goal against Chelsea – the Texan has made a habit of scoring vital derby goals in recent years – re-established Martin Jol’s side place in the top half of the table. It was a point that an enterprising Fulham side more than merited, especially as their visitors appeared to benefit from another questionable refereeing decision just before half time.
After Chelsea had seen off a spirited Wigan challenge at the weekend courtesy of two blunders by an assistant referee, Mark Clattenburg awarded a hotly disputed penalty on the stroke of half-time. Soloman Kalou went to ground just inside the box under a challenge from Danny Murphy, although the Fulham captain appeared to make little contact with the Ivorian. Murphy’s post-match revelation that the official had insisted he had penalised an imperceptible challenge from Stephen Kelly left everybody even more confused. That the home side trailed to Frank Lampard’s 150th Premier League goal, clinically finished from twelve yards, seemed very harsh.
Jol’s side had attacked with energy and verve from the off. The diminutive Kerim Frei, surprisingly included ahead of Alex Kacaniklic, dribbled effortlessly past Chelsea defenders on several occasions, almost capping one mesmeric dribble with a low shot that Petr Cech did superbly to claw behind. Dempsey, off-balance at the crucial moment, should have done better than stab Moussa Dembele’s cut-back straight at Cech from eight yards and the Belgian was a frequent menace, his marauding bursts from midfield and clever inter-play with Dempsey posing a real head-ache for Roberto Di Matteo.
Chelsea’s attacking threat was spasmodic and largely limited to long-range efforts spanked over the bar by Lampard, Raul Meireles and John Obi Mikel. The visitors also felt they might have been awarded another penalty, when a cross from the impressive Ryan Bertrand struck Kelly on the wrist. The goal certainly galvanised Chelsea, who dominated the first twenty minutes of the second half. Lampard shot narrowly wide just after the restart and felt he should have been given another penalty after a challenge by Brede Hangeland. Meireles was far more culpable, though, skying a shot hopelessly into the Putney End after a fluent passing move.
Jol’s side gradually rediscovered the zest of the first half, with Frei having great success once he isolated Branislav Ivanovic. It appeared for all Fulham’s pretty approach play that they once again fall short on derby day, with John Arne Riise fizzing a drive just wide of the far post, and Cech superbly turning aside a header from Aaron Hughes that looked destined for the top corner. From the ensuing corner, however, Dempsey’s glancing header flew into the far corner – having taken a hefty deflection off Gary Cahill. You’d have thought Chelsea might have learnt from leaving the American unattended – he’d scored a late equaliser in similar circumstances three years ago at Craven Cottage and poached a leveller at Stamford Bridge before Christmas – but the visitors’ defensive frailties have been far too apparent throughout this season.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, J.A. Riise, Hughes, Hangeland; Diarra (Sa 81), Murphy (Etuhu 74); Duff, Dembele, Frei (Kacaniklic 88); Dempsey. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Baird, Senderos, Kasami.
GOAL: Dempsey (82).
CHELSEA (4-5-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Bertrand, Terry, Cahill; Mikel, Meireles (Mata 70), Lampard, Ramires (Drogba 83), Kalou; Torres. Subs (not used): Turnbull, Bosingwa, Romeu, Malouda, Sturrridge.
BOOKED: Meireles, Cahill, Mikel.
GOAL: Lampard (pen 45).
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham).