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West Ham United
December 26, 2011
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: K. Friend
• Attendance: 41548
That's all from Stamford Bridge - enjoy your Boxing Day afternoon.
For Fulham, it's a sound response to their 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United last week. With Johnson and Zamora seemingly out of favour, the likes of Dembele, Frei, Dempsey and Ruiz showed that Jol's team should have more than enough attacking talent to stay away from the bottom three this season.
The draw against Wigan, before this game, could have been forgotten as a minor blip in an otherwise good five match run for the Blues. But once again they have failed to get the job done in a match they really need to be winning if their title aspirations this season are genuine.
90' + 3'
FULL TIME! Three draws in a row for Chelsea, and this is a game they really could have done with winning. In all honesty, they never looked at their best during this game and Fulham looked fairly comfortable, a late onslaught aside.
90' + 2'
Another good save from Stockdale. Drogba curls a 30-yard free-kick towards goal but the 'keeper is there again to tip the strike over the bar. Nothing comes from the resulting corner and we are nearly done here.
90' + 1'
Injury time chance for Fulham and Kasami should probably do better than he does. The striker finds a bit of space between Terry and Luiz but his left-footed shot from around the edge of the box is very tame and saved by Cech.
Fulham are hanging on a little now as Chelsea mount a late push. Stockdale parries another shot away for a corner, this time Mata's long range effort stinging his palms.
Another chance from Meireles, who has showed some presence in the penalty area, as he meets a cross, but his header is tipped over the bar by Stockdale. The goalkeeper does well to then save from a Drogba near post header from a corner.
Luiz, Cole and Ferreira are breaking forward from defence to try and unsettle the Fulham back four and midfield here in some way, but just nothing is falling for Chelsea. They look devoid of sharpness and inspiration - his goal aside, even Mata has been quiet.
Fresh pair of legs for Fulham in attack, as Pajtim Kasami looks to make an impression off of the bench in place of Sa.
Paulo Ferreira, in a Zorro-style face mask, replaces Bosingwa at right-back.
A shot from Drogba from 20 yards takes a little deflection on the way to Stockdale - the goalkeeper makes the save, but the ricocchet makes it a little more uncomfortable and he only just retrieves the rebound before Torres.
Brilliant bit of play from Meireles - we haven't seen that sort of quality much in this match. Cole's cross from the left is trapped superbly by the Portuguese midfielder, who turns and curls a shot just wide of the far post. Very close.
Luiz lifts a long ball over the top to Drogba, who is running in from the left. The Ivorian cuts into the box but the angle is still tight, and Stockdale gets down to make a comfortable save.
Really descended into a bit of a stalemate at Stamford Bridge. Both teams take turns attacking each other, Chelsea perhaps doing so more often than Fulham, but there is a complete lack of sharpness in the final third of the pitch.
Malouda drops into midfield for Chelsea, with Mata, Drogba and Torres the front three.
Interesting one from Villas-Boas - it's Sturridge, and not Torres, who will be replaced by Drogba. Sturridge has been, by his standards, fairly quiet, although he has come into the game on the odd occasion.
Didier Drogba is getting ready to be introduced for Chelsea. Torres, you would imagine, will be withdrawn.
Yellow Card José Bosingwa
Booking for Bosingwa after Frei had shook the Portuguese defender off with a run inside. The right-back brought him down with a late sliding tackle.
Attendance today at Stamford Bridge is 41,548.
Chelsea go close twice in quick succession. First, Sturridge cuts inside and curls a trademark left-footed effort that Stockdale tips over the bar. Terry heads the resulting corner goalwards and Malouda very nearly forces the ball home, but again Stockdale is there.
Florent Malouda is sent on in place of Lampard. Lampard has looked uncomfortable, to be honest, in an attacking midfield position that Malouda (or Mata, if he moves inside) should be more suited to.
Villas-Boas is in deep discussion with coach Roberto Di Matteo and you sense a change is imminent. Chelsea need a spark from somewhere.
Assist Bryan Ruiz
Goal Clint Dempsey
GOAL! Fulham won't allow Chelsea to escape with the points that easily. An good move upfield eventually results in the ball falling to Ruiz on the right - the winger jinks past Cole before sending in a low cross that is converted by Dempsey from close range.
First bit of pressure from Fulham in this half results in a corner, but Murphy's delivery is headed clear by Romeu.
Corner from Mata from the left curls all the way out to the penalty spot, where Terry connects with a volley. It's goalbound, but blocked by a crowd of bodies in front of the net.
A disappointing goal from Fulham's point of view. They made the home side work hard for their chances in the first half, but that was too simple and too easy.
Assist Fernando Torres
Goal Juan Mata
GOAL! Chelsea have not started this half electrifyingly quickly, but they have the first goal of the game really out of nothing. It's simple enough, as Ashley Cole chips a pass into the feet of Torres just inside the box - the striker holds it up and lays it off for Mata, who lashes home from 18 yards.
We're back underway in West London, for a half hopefully featuring more action than the first.
Chelsea really need to up the tempo of their attacking play. Torres has been forced to come deep in search of the ball too often, while at the other end of the pitch they have missed the endless pressing of Ramires.
Not a bad half for Fulham, who have had to contain Chelsea but have not had a particularly difficult time doing it. They haven't created much more than half chances so far, but have passed the ball well and Dembele has looked threatening.
HALF TIME! Not a brilliant half of football by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, Villas-Boas can wake his team up a little and we'll see a more exciting second frame.
Lampard chips a tricky ball for Stockdale to deal with towards the back post with his left foot but the young goalkeeper plucks it out of the air with one hand. He has looked very comfortable so far.
Fulham are having less of the ball than Chelsea, but once again, when they get it, they look far more penetrative. A minute-long spell of quick passing eventually comes to nothing, but Fulham were not met with much in the way of resistance from Chelsea, who are perhaps missing Ramires' energy.
Bosingwa's cross from the right is flicked on by Sturridge but cleared behind for a corner, which John Terry heads well wide.
All a bit sloppy and untidy from Chelsea at the minute. Mata's pass is intended for Lampard but actually bounces to Oriol Romeu, who's shot from just outisde the box rises over the crossbar.
Fulham, by the way, have set up with Kerim Frei on the left, Bryan Ruiz on the right and Dembele playing just off of Sa. Chelsea seem to be encouraging Lampard to press very high up the pitch in support of Torres.
Fulham enjoy a rare bit of possession and they look much more purposeful than their opponents with it. Sa and Dembele link-up well, with the latter skipping past a defender before firing a low shot just wide of the far post. Cech probably had it covered, just about.
Chelsea totally dominating possession now, but they're struggling to break Fulham down. The Cottagers are happy to sit deep and soak up the pressure.
Again Chelsea win the ball back in the Fulham half, and this time Mata finds Torres out wide. He cuts into the box but sends a left-footed shot into orbit, much to the delight of the visiting fans behind the goal.
More good work from Torres, who wins the ball outside the box and lays it off for Daniel Sturridge, but the winger's effort flies wide. Open game, and now the chances are starting to flow.
This game has sprung into life now. A long ball into the Fulham box is beautifully controlled on the chest by Torres, who swivels and volleys at goal from point blank range. Blocking the way, though, is David Stockdale, who somehow not only saves the shot but catches it.
Even better chance for Fulham, and this time Kelly is the creator. The full-back is played in down the right by Dembele and crosses for the back post - this time Bosingwa is guilty of defending poorly, but Sa heads wide when he really should hit the target.
First half-chance for Chelsea - Jose Bosingwa's cross to the back post isn't cleared by Stephen Kelly, by Juan Mata - unusually, for him - mistimes his volley.
Fulham looking comfortable at the back so far despite their attacking midfield. Positionally, they've been strong, with only Sa not behind the ball when Chelsea have possession.
First chance of the match falls to Fulham, who have gone forward confidently on a couple of occasions. Dempsey finds some space from distance and fires a shot in the direction of Petr Cech, but the goalkeeper deals with the bounce well to palm it wide.
Yellow Card Clint Dempsey
Dempsey takes an early booking for pulling back Meireles. He might have some defending to do today and will have to be careful.
No chances to speak of in the opening five minutes. Torres takes Danny Murphy's studs to the leg as they competed for a bouncing ball, but the Spaniard is back to his feet quickly.
Fulham will hope they will not live to regret the absence of Etuhu. Frank Lampard will need tracking by someone today - the England midfielder has scored seven goals against Fulham in the Premier League, and five on Boxing Day.
Interesting selection from Martin Jol today, with Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson left out. The omission of Dickson Etuhu in favour of Clint Dempsey in the centre of midfield is a very attacking statement of intent, as well.
We're underway at Stamford Bridge.
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Stockdale; Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Sa, Murphy, Dempsey, Frei; Ruiz; Dembele. Subs: Etheridge, Sidwell, Barid, Kasami, Hughes, Etuhu, Briggs.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Romeu, Meireles; Sturridge, Torres, Mata. Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Malouda, Lukaku, Ferreira, McEachran, Kalou.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of today's Boxing Day derby between Chelsea and Fulham. The home side are unbeaten in five Premier League outings but have drawn their last two, against Tottenham and Wigan, and will be keen to reinforce their place in the top four with a home win today. Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas is hoping Fernando Torres will be the man to fire his side to victory, with the Spaniard replacing Didier Drogba in the starting line-up. Full team news to follow.
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