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Bocanegra rocks Chelsea

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.

BOOKED: Ferreira.

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).

ATTENDANCE: 41,926

Bocanegra happy to fill midfield berth

Carlos Bocanegra is happy to fill in for Fulham as a makeshift midfielder – despite never having played there as a professional.

The American defender has been drafted into Chris Coleman’s midfield as six first-team midfielders are missing with injury. The 27 year-old has no qualms with his new role and wants to try and add more goals to the winner he scored at Newcastle in September. Bocanegra told the Daily Mirror:

“I’m here for the team. I’ve played left back, centre back and most recently as a defensive midfielder, and that’s fine with me, so long as I am on the pitch playing. I played in midfield when I was younger but never at a high level like the Premiership. It’s okay though. I am enjoying it. I have Ian Pearce and Zat Knight behind me doing a great job and speaking to me a lot, which helps.”

McBride and Bocanegra power fine Fulham fightback

Fulham forged a fine comeback to stun Newcastle with two late goals from Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra but their win at St. James’ Park was marred by a serious injury to in-form midfielder Jimmy Bullard.

Newcastle looked on course to win after taking the lead through a fine Scott Parker header ten minutes after the break, but Chris Coleman’s side – who struggled for away wins last season – stole all three points in the last five minutes when their American duo turned the game on its head. The loss of their talismanic midfielder, who was stretched off in tears with his right leg in a splint after being injured by Parker, takes some of the gloss of Fulham’s spirited comeback.

In a quiet first half, Glenn Roeder’s side dominated possession but struggled to create chances. Damien Duff looked lively down the left flank but the Magpies were mainly restricted to long-range efforts from Obafemi Martins. Stephen Carr blasted their clearest opener over the bar from the right at the end of the first half. Fulham offered little going forward themselves with two McBride headers the closest they came to making an impression.

Roeder sent his side out after the interval with clear instructions to take the attack to Fulham and Newcastle reaped the reward of Parker’s desire to make an impact in the box ten minutes after the break. The England midfielder made a late run into the box, darting away from Liam Rosenior, and guiding an excellent header past Antti Niemi from Emre’s inviting cross.

Fulham didn’t seriously test Shay Given until the final frenetic five minutes, hampered by Bullard’s enforced departure and a defensive reorganised required when Zat Knight also limped off injured. McBride powered home an unlikely equaliser when he produced a brilliant volley from Wayne Routledge’s right-wing delivery and the American striker demonstrated his aerial prowess again a minute from time – powering a header against the Newcastle crossbar. Compatriot Bocanegra guided home the rebound from six yards out to complete a scarcely believable comeback.

Fulham finally strung a series of passes together and McBride was on hand to volley in Routledge’s cross.

And with a minute left Bocanegra forced the ball over the line after McBride hit the bar with a header after a Fulham corner.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Bramble, Moore, Ramage; Duff, Parker (Butt 80), Emre, N’Zogbia; Ameobi, Martins (Rossi 72). Subs (not used): Harper, Solano, Sibierski.

BOOKED: Emre.

GOALS: Parker (54).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi, Rosenior, Quedrue, Knight (Bocanegra 78), Pearce; Diop (Radzinski 83), Brown, Bullard (Routledge 34), Boa Morte; John, McBride. Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Helguson.

BOOKED: Brown.

GOALS: McBride (82), Bocanegra (89).

REFEREE: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

ATTENDANCE: 50,365.

Late Bocanegra header shatters Spurs

Carlos Bocanegra’s first goal for Fulham ensured Chris Coleman’s side secured a late winner over Tottenham at Craven Cottage tonight and damaged Spurs’ Champions’ League aspirations.

Martin Jol’s decision to play Polish forward Grzegorz Rasiak instead of Jermain Defoe badly backfired as Spurs struggled to build up significant pressure on the Fulham goal or finish the chances that did come their way. Rasiak, badly devoid of confidence, was jeered by the visiting supporters and Defoe’s 20-minute cameo off the bench wasn’t enough to tilt a tight game in the visitors’ favour. Instead, Spurs – reduced to ten men when Michael Dawson was shown a second yellow card – wilted and were beaten at the last when Bocanegra bounced away from Stephen Kelly to head home a stoppage-time free kick.

Fulham introduced Michael Brown, the latest player to leave White Hart Lane as Jol reshapes his squad, as their newest signing before the kick off. The midfielder watched from the stands as he former employers almost took an early lead with Republic Ireland internationals Robbie Keane and Andy Reid linking up impressively before the latter shot inches wide of Antti Niemi’s far post. Fulham almost punished Rasiak for lunging in on Sylvain Legwinski as Paul Robinson pulled off a splendid save to push Brian McBride’s precise strike away from the far corner.

England goalkeeper Robinson repeated the feat just after the half hour mark – showing great agility to keep out a McBride volley that looked destined for the top corner. Chances were far and far between in a scrappy second half until Dawson received his marching orders for fouls on Heidar Helguson and McBride. The American was again denied by Robinson from the resultant free-kick, but Defoe almost stole the points after intercepting a slack pass from Simon Elliott and letting fly from 20 yards, with Niemi juggling his save akwardly.

Fulham won it deep into stoppage time when Tottenham switched off at a left-wing free-kick. Elliott’s delivery reached the heart of the penalty area and Bocanegra escaped the attentions of his marker to finally beat Robinson from six yards out to the delight of the home fans.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Bridge, Knight, Bocanegra; Elliott, Legwinski (Radzinski 23), Malbranque, Boa Morte; Helguson,McBride (John 73). Subs (not used): Warner, Goma, N. Jensen.

BOOKED: Helguson.

GOAL: Bocanegra (90).

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, King, Dawson, Stalteri; Reid (Huddlestone 26), Carrick, Jenas, Lennon (Gardner 74); Rasiak (Defoe 70), Keane. Subs (not used): Cerny, Jackson.

BOOKED: Rasiak, Dawson, Jenas.

SENT OFF: Dawson (72).

REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).

ATTENDANCE: 21,081

Bocanegra displays his versatility

Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra hopes Moritz Volz makes a speedy recovery from injury so he can return to his preferred position in the centre of defence.

Volz sustained a fractured rib during the goalless draw with West Brom on Saturday, forcing boss Chris Coleman to switch Bocanegra to full-back and bring on Zat Knight.

But USA international Bocanegra, who spent the first 18 months of his Fulham career at left-back, is keen to return to the centre of defence in order to press his World Cup claims.

“I’ve been really enjoying playing in the middle. With the World Cup approaching it’s good for me to be playing in my natural position,” he said.

“But when we changed things around after Moritz went off, we didn’t really have anyone else who could go out there so I was happy to do it.

“Tomasz Radzinski was in front of me and we played together quite a bit last year so it was pretty comfortable.

“But hopefully Moritz will get healthy soon so that I can stay in the middle – it’s way less running than on the left!”

Fulham’s position in the Barclays Premiership has suffered because of sloppy defending so Bocanegra was delighted with the club’s first away clean sheet of the season against West Brom.

“We were happy to get the clean sheet. We’ve been talking about it for a while now – and we know we’ve been having a tough time getting one, even at home,” he said.

“It was an ugly game but we didn’t concede and we got a point which was good.”