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Premier League

  • 26 December 2011
  • • 13:00
  • • Stamford Bridge, London
  • Referee: K. Friend
  • • Attendance: 41548

Chelsea 1-1 Fulham: Clint Dempsey cancels out Juan Mata’s opener to leave rivals’ fading title hopes in the balance

Chelsea 1-1 Fulham: Clint Dempsey cancels out Juan Mata’s opener to leave rivals’ fading title hopes in the balance

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David Stockdale impresses for Martin Jol's side as Andre Villas-Boas' winless run in London derbies continues after Boxing Day stalemate at Stamford Bridge

Clint Dempsey tapped home a well-crafted Fulham move as Martin Jol's side secured a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day, denting Chelsea's Premier League title aspirations.

Following a tepid first half, Andre Villas-Boas' side took the lead through Juan Mata's curling effort before the visitors struck back in a frustrating afternoon for the hosts.

Jol's men arrived at Stamford Bridge for the 75th west London derby with the worst goal scoring record of any away team in the top flight this season, and with only two league victories against their rivals on away turf, the omens were against the Cottagers from the offset.

Fernando Torres returned to the Chelsea starting XI in place of Didier Drogba, who was available from the bench, whilst David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Oriol Romeu also featured for the Blues.

Orlando Sa and Kerim Frei were handed starts for the away side, while Bryan Ruiz and Moussa Dembele led the line for the Cottagers.

With first choice attackers Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora missing for Fulham, it was no surprise that Chelsea were quickest to get going.

Daniel Sturridge started in confident fashion following his strike against Tottenham in midweek, and his cross from the right - which evaded John Arne Riise and Clint Dempsey - was met by Fernando Torres, only for the Spaniard's effort to drift wide of goalkeeper David Stockdale's post.

Nonetheless, the first effort of significance would come from the visitors, as Petr Cech needed to be alert to tip Dempsey's dipping effort wide.

Jol's side then tested the hosts again, as Sa managed to make space for a shot despite being outnumbered by John Terry and Luiz, before the Portuguese striker then spurned a glorious chance to put his side ahead.

It was then the hosts turn to threaten after some sublime combination play between Chelsea's Spanish contingent. Mata collected the ball on the right and cut inside before lifting a weighted pass to Torres. The former Liverpool man controlled with his chest before volleying at goal only to be denied by Stockdale from close-range.

The flow of the game stagnated as it drew towards the interval, with Fulham looking comfortable despite brief glimpses from Torres, Romeu and Raul Meireles.

Torres tester | The Spaniard was unable to find the net in Boxing Day draw

Despite the lack of intensity throughout the opening 45, neither manager looked to change things during the break, a decision that was quickly justified on Villas-Boas' part as Chelsea took the lead just two minutes after the restart.

After making space in the middle of the park, Mata found Romeu who played Ashley Cole in on the left. Torres was unable to control the 31-year-old's cross, but did manage to tee up his fellow Spaniard, who curled an effort past Stockdale to put Chelsea ahead.

The visitors looked to hit back quickly, and were not left wanting for long. Ruiz jinked past Cole before hitting a low delivery across the face for Dempsey to tap home, as once again Cech struggled in front of a congested goalmouth.

Villas-Boas reacted first. Lampard - having scored on five previous Boxing Days and with seven league goals against Fulham -  was replaced on the hour mark, as Florent Malouda was introduced to inject some pace into the side.

The change seemed to invigorate the Blues. Strurridge brought a sharp save from Stockdale, before the Fulham stopper saved with his leg to deny Malouda after the Frenchman improvised with a back-heel in an attempt to divert a Terry header across the line.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Sturridge was replaced by Drogba, but the Ivorian was unable to make an impact as the anxiety from the home support become increasingly evident.

As the hosts clocked up their eighth corner of the game, Stockdale continued to stand strong, first denying Meireles before thwarting Drogba.

Chelsea were then awarded a free-kick in stoppage time, and again the England international was on hand to rescue his side. Drogba unleashed a dipping thunderbolt which Stockdale did well to tip over the bar, as Jol's side held on to claim an important point.

The result leaves the Blues 8 and 10 points behind Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, who both play later on Monday, as Villas-Boas' side face an increasingly unlikely task to reach the Premier League summit.

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