Visitors fail to take the initiative following Alex sending off, as enthralling derby stalemate at Stamford Bridge is decided by penalty shoot outChelsea unconvincingly came out on top of the Carling Cup third round SW6 derby against Fulham, stuttering to victory via a stalemate and a 4-3 penalty shoot-out.
It was an engaging 0-0 draw, though Fulham failed to capitalise on their hosts losing defender Alex half-way through the second half, and as the game entered a penalty shoot-out, it was the Cottagers' record signing Bryan Ruiz who missed the decisive spot-kick.
Both Martin Jol and Villas-Boas made statements of their intent for the Carling Cup, making a hatful of drastic changes from the weekend.
For the Blues, in came youthful trio Josh McEachran, Oriol Romelu and Romelu Lukaku among others, backed by a star-studded bench in case reinforcement was required.
The visitors similarly packed their bench with usual starters, giving record signing Bryan Ruiz opportunity for redemption following his ineffective debut against Blackburn, with Orlando Sa and Marcel Gecov also in the fray from the off.
Fulham’s weakened side were on the back foot as soon as the first whistle blew and though they remained on the back foot throughout, it took Chelsea a fair while to convert possession into genuine potency.
After an incident-shy opening, it took a denied penalty claim following Florent Malouda's tangle with Zdenek Grygera to get the hosts going, with Salomon Kalou missing a golden opportunity to put his side ahead as glanced a free header wide of the post.
From there, a rampant Lukaku barged his way into the Fulham box and sent his effort straight at Mark Schwarzer, with Daniel Sturridge driving narrowly wide after cutting in from the right flank moments later.
The Blues were almost made to rue those missed chances as Fulham began to look more menacing, though Pajtim Kasami wastefully lashed into the sidenetting after a delightfully scooped Ruiz pass.
Sturridge then slid in to convert Kalou’s goalbound effort and saw the score ruled out for offside, with that being the last of the action for the young striker as he hobbled off to be replaced by Frank Lampard five or so minutes before the referee called for the interval.
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The game burst into life as soon as the teams came back out for the second half. Lampard took little time to provide the incision that was absent for Chelsea, slotting in Kalou who bore down on goal only to rifle his shot in the side-netting.
In a matter of seconds, Fulham counter-attacked and won themselves a penalty after a delightful Ruiz backheel released Frei who was hacked down by Alex. The Brazilan received a red card for his misdemeanor, though Chelsea were not made to pay the full price, as Kasami slammed his penalty against the bar.
After this incidents came few and far between as Fulham began to take advantage of Chelsea’s player deficit. Petr Cech was twice called into sharp saves, denying substitute Mousa Dembele and then Kajami as Fulham pushed for a winner in normal time.
The game descended into end to end chaos, with John Terry having a header from a corner clawed off the line before the hosts were nearly hit on the counter as Frei surged through a static defence but sent his effort wide. As the game entered its closing stages, Lukaku and Luiz both went close though could have done better with efforts from inside the box, but the game ended as a stalemate.
If Fulham were expecting Chelsea to look haggard in extra time, they would have been disappointed, with the hosts providing the majority of the battle and the greater impetus in the first half of extra time. That said, the Blues were limited to a fluffed Lukaku header and a wild Luiz effort that went criminally high and wide, with Ruiz going closest to breaking the deadlock with a well-improvised lobbed effort that went agonisingly close.
Still Chelsea pushed in the second half but it was Fulham who crafted the best two chances, as Zamora curled wide with a free shot at goal and Steve Sidwell volleyed narrowly over after arriving late in the box and connecting with Stephen Kelly's cross. However, the deadlock couldn't be breached and the game culminated in a penalty shoot-out.
Lampard started proceedings but had his penalty saved, before Bobby Zamora, Luiz, Sidwell and Terry all netted. Dembele had his tame effort palmed away as Kalou and Chris Baird effectively forced sudden death. From there Malouda tucked his cool spot-kick into the top corner as Ruiz proved the fall-guy, his slammed effort bouncing off the under side of the bar, allowing a lucky Chelsea to progress to the fourth round of the Carling Cup.