FULL-TIME!!! AND IT'S ALL OVER. CHESLEA HOLD ON TO STAY CLEAR AT THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE. Essien's forst half goal proved vital as the champions didn't play to their full potential but ground out the win. Fulham did not really threaten to trouble the scorers but pushed right to the end and forced a couple of great saves from Petr Cech. Chelsea are four points clear at the top as it stands at the moment and will be hoping the game at Eastlands stays 0-0 between Manchester United and Manchester City.
Dangerous play from the Chelsea midfielder as he gets his marching orders, for an two-footed challenge on Clint Dempsey and, despite winning the ball, it did look dangerous. He lunged in with two feet and his studs showing.
Essien sent off in the dying stages.
Chelsea look edgy as they attempt to hold out for the win.
Red Card Michael Essien
Four minutes of added time.
Substitution José Bosingwa Paulo Ferreira
Three minutes plus stoppage time remaining. The nerves are jangling around Stamford Bridge as Fulham search for the equaliser.
Substitution Salomon Kalou Daniel Sturridge
Speculative effort from Dempsey on the edge of the box has Petr Cech scrambling but it goes wide of the post. Fulham pushing for the equaliser now.
A poor headed clearance from John Terry falls to Zoltan Gera who inleashes a thunderous volley but luckily for Chesea and Petr Cech it is straight at the keeper who punches away. Danger signs for Chelsea.
Drogba stands over a free-kick 30-yards out but his shot is straight at Mark Schwarzer.
Ten minutes left at Stamford Bridge.
Substitution Matthew Briggs Zoltán Gera
Substitution Florent Malouda Ramires
Zirkhov wins the ball off Dempsey and breaks quickly for the home side. His squared ball is met by Michael Essien who cuts inside but his tame shot goes wide. Poor from the Ghana midfielder.
Yellow Card Ashley Cole
A late challene on former Chelsea player Damien Duff earns Ashley Cole a booking but Fulham are furious as Dempsey gathered the ball in a decent position but the ref hauled play back.
A stunning effort from 25 yards by Clinton Dempsey and Petr Cech makes a brilliant save. First real action the Czech keeper has had to take part in. Resultant inswinging corner taken by Simon Davies but Cech gathers.
UNBELIEVEABLE!!! Chelsea miss three chances in the space of ten seconds and somehow Fulham hold out. Zhirkov swings in a corner and it simehow falls to Malouda who has his shot saved by Schwarzer. The ball rebounds to Mikel and Mark Schwarzer makes a brilliant save from a thunderous drive. Then that man again Salomon Kalou crosses the ball and a shot by Michael Essien from deep inside the penalty area misses the target.
Michael Essien unleashes a fierce drive but it flies high into the stand.
Kalou goes on another mazy run but as he gets to the byline he cannot et his cross away and the ball runs out for a goal-kick.
Substitution Dickson Etuhu Andy Johnson
Break in play at the moment as Essien goes down holding his back after a challenge for Etuhu. Fulham have possession in a good area of the pitch but the referee stops play as Essien starts to hld his head. Mark Hughes changes it up for Fulham as Andy Johnson comes on for the visitors.
Chelsea still dominating play but at 1-0 Fulham are still in the game.
Brilliant from Kalou but once again the striker is wasteful in front of goal. The Ivorian skips past two defenders and gets a shot away on goal but Schwarzer makes himself big and half stops the shot allowing the Hughes to clear off the line. I wonder if Chelsea will be made to regret Kalou's missed opportunities. He could have four by now.
Fulham threaten but Chelsea withstand the pressure. Duff sends in a free-kick but Chelsea clear their lines easily.
Yellow Card Michael Essien
Dembele picks up the ball just inside the Chelsea half but is rather isolated as four defenders surround him and win the ball back. That passage of play rather sums up the visitor's night.
Slow start to the second-half at the Bridge. Nothing of note to report except a reckless challenge from Dempsey on Mikel.
Fulham get us underway for the second-half.
HALF-TIME AT THE BRIDGE. Chelseas dominant so far with Fulham facing an uphill battle to get themselves back into this match but stranger things have happened in the past. Join me in 15 minutes to see if the champions can hold on or whether their west London rivals can get back into it.
Matthew Briggs is replaced by Zoltan Gera. Damien Duff moves to left-back as Mark Hughes looks to get something from the match.
Fulham hanging on for dear life at the end of the first half. Malouda gets to the byline and puts in a cross across the face of goal and Kalou is a whsiker away from getting on the end of it but Briggs does just about enough to put the striker off. Kalou could have easily put this game to bed in the last few minutes.
Soloman Kalou has two great opportunities to send the champions into the break two up but the Ivorian spurns both the chances. Malouda does some excellent work on the left and makes himself some space to cross findinf Kalou un marked on the dge of the 18-yard box but his shot is mishit and flies wide. Minutes later he was put through on goal and held of the challenge of Matthew Briggs but fired just wide of the far post.
Chelsea back on the fron foot now but Fulham defend well. The problem the visitors are having is keeping hold of the ball for long enough. Whatever they seem to be doing the ball comes straight back at them.
Great spell of play from Fulham who knock the ball around really wall but the play is broken up by Zhirkov who knocks the ball out for a corner. Duff's corner is met by Etuhu but his header is off-target and cleared by Essien for another corner. The second corner is cleared.
Hard work ahead for Fulham now. they need to do something no other side has managed this season and out the ball in the back of the net past Petr Cech.
Assist Salomon Kalou
Goal Michael Essien
GOOOAAALLL!!! AND YOU CAN'T SAY IT WASN'T COMING. Chelsea take the lead after Mikel's free-kick is cleared only as far as Soloman Kalou who whips in a great ball for Michael Essien to head home from six yards.
Some good play from Fulham as Danny Murphy spreads the play to Kelly who finds Simon Davies in some space. He turn and slips a pass through to CLint Dempsey but the American is well off-side. great build up play.
For all the home side's dominance Fulham are holding their own. Chelsea have not made a clear cut opening yet and you can feel the home fans anxiety building at the moment.
Mikel responds for Chelsea with a long range effort of his own but Mark Schwarzer deals with it comfortably.
Fulham finally string together a run of possession flowing from their own box to the edge of the Chelsea box and Duff sends in a cross to Dempsey but Zhirkov clears.
Didier Drogba wins a corner for the home side. Zhirkov's cross is met by John Terry but the skipper doesn't get a great connection on it and the ball falls to Kalou. But his cross is too close to Mark Schwarzer who gathers cleanly.
The visitors are chasing shadows at the moment but they are doing well to restrict Chelsea and shut off all channels towards goal. Mark Hughes' men are biting into tackles and making life as difficult as they can for the champions.
As you were at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea dominant in possession but no real chances for either side. Clint Dempsey wins a header against John Terry but his flick has too much on it and goes through to Petr Cech.
No sign of the visitors getting a foothold in this game yet.
The champions look up for this. Zhirkov picks up the ball cutting in from the left and releases Ashley Cole in on goal, but the left-back just mistimes his run and the linesman flag is up.
Chelsea have seen a lot of ball in the opening stages forcing two corners which Fulham easily clear. Essein has a shot from the edge of the box but it is defelcted away from safety for a corner. Corner is easliy cleared. Ominous signs for Fulham.
And Chelsea get us underway at Stamford Bridge.
Chance for Fulham. Briggs goes past Mikel like he is not there and lets fly from 30 yards but his shot is straight at Cech. A bit ambitous there from the Fulham left back.
The task facing Fulham tonight is shown by the fact Chelsea are unbeaten at home this season and have not even conceded a goal.
Fulham boss Mark Hughes spent three years as a player at Chelsea, but has not enjoyed returning to the Bridge as a manager. He has lost four of five games on his returns to the ground as a manager, drawing the other, conceding a total of 12 goals. While Carlo Ancelotti has never lost back-to-back league games in his time at Chelsea so he will be hoping that doesn't come true tonnight.
And here is the side Mark Hughes believes can end 31 years of hurt for Fulham against their west London rivals: Fulham: Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Briggs, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff, Dempsey, Dembele. Subs: Stockdale, Pantsil, Andrew Johnson, Gera, Eddie Johnson, Dikgacoi, Greening.
And here is tonight's Chelsea line-up: Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Zhirkov, Kalou, Drogba, Malouda. Subs: Turnbull, Ramires, Ferreira, Sturridge, Bruma, Kakuta, McEachran.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's live text commentary of the West London derby between Chelsea and Fulham. Chelsea will be looking to beat their neighbours to stay on top of the Premier League while Fulham will be looking to end a 15 month run without a win on their travels. The visitors to Stamford Bridge have only won one of their last 27 meetings against the Premier Leagu champions.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed