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Premier League

  • 26 December 2011
  • • 18:30
  • • 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

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

Clint Dempsey tapped home a well-crafted Fulham move as Martin Jol's side dented 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 their visitors struck back in a frustrating afternoon at Stamford Bridge.

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

Without first choice attackers Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora, it was no surprise that Chelsea were quickest to get going. Daniel Sturridge, the hosts' top goalscorer, started in confident fashion following his strike against Tottenham in midweek, and his cross from the right - after evading the attentions of John Arne Riise and Clint Dempsey - was met by Fernando Torres only for the Spaniard's effort to drift wide of David Stockdale's post.

Nonetheless, the first effort of significance would come from the visitors, as Petr Cech needed to tip Dempsey's dipping effort wide, handing Fulham the first corner of the game, and one which they failed to capitalise on.

Jol's side would then test their hosts again, as Orlando Sa managed to make space for a shot despite being outnumbered by John Terry and David Luiz. The Portuguese striker then spurned a glorious chance to put his side ahead, before some sublime combination play between Chelsea's Spanish contingent.

Juan Mata collected the ball on the right, roughly 30 yards from goal, and cut inside before lifting a weighted pass to Torres. The former Liverpool man took the ball obligingly - controlling it on chest - before volleying at goal only to be denied by Stockdale from close-range.

The flow of the stagnated as it drew towards the interval, and other than Torres' effort and sighters from Oriol Romeu and Raul Meireles Fulham performed in relative comfort throughout the half, with Sa's determination and a snap-shot from Moussa Dembele giving Villas-Boas cause for concern.

Torres tester | Spaniard went close with a well-taken effort on the volley

Despite the tepid nature to the match, neither manager looked to change things during the break, and considering the start his Chelsea made to the second half, Villas-Boas will have been delighted.

After making space in the middle of the park, Mata, played to ball to Romeu who then found Ashley Cole on the left. The England left back whipped in a ball which Torres struggled to tame, but the striker pushed the ball on to Mata who curled an effort past Stockdale to put Chelsea ahead.

Fulham's first half display was far from outstanding, but Jol will have been pleased with proceedings. But Mata's strike changed the whole complexity of the match, and the visitors looked to hit back quickly.

And that's exactly what they did. Bryan Ruiz sold Cole a dummy on the right side of the box, jinking past the full-back before hitting a low delivery across the face for Dempsey to tap home, as once again Cech looked uncomfortable with players around him.

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

The change seemed to invigorate the Blues. Strurridge brought a sharp save from Stockdale to tip a curling effort over the bar, before the Fulham keeper saved with his leg to deny Malouda after improvising with a back heel in an attempt to divert a John Terry header across the line.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Sturridge was replaced by Didier Drogba, one short of equaling Chelsea's all-time goals record, held by Peter Osgood.

With the game approaching the final 10 minutes, groans of anxiety seemed to echo around Stamford Bridge, as Fulham looked to claim what would have been only their fourth point in this fixture in the Premier League.

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

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

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