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Fulham earn battling draw against Chelsea

last updated Sunday 28th December 2008, 5:42 PM

Fulham USA star Clint Dempsey scores twice against Chelsea
Fulham USA star
Clint Dempsey scores
twice against Chelsea
Fulham 2 Chelsea 2
Clint Dempsey's last-minute header dented Chelsea's Barclays Premier League title challenge as Fulham earned a battling 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.

Chelsea, who have now taken just 10 points from their last 21, had been on course for a west London derby win after two second-half strikes from Frank Lampard.

But Dempsey, who had given Fulham the lead after 10 minutes, popped up with seconds remaining to extend the Cottagers' unbeaten run to nine games.

Chelsea now head into the new year three points behind league pace-setters Liverpool, who had signed off 2008 earlier in the day with a 5-1 win at Newcastle.

Fulham may not challenge for the title this season, but they are determined to have a major say in its eventual destination having now beaten Arsenal and taken points off Liverpool and Chelsea.

It is some turnaround in the space of 12 months under manager Roy Hodgson, who took charge a year ago when the club seemed bound for relegation.

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari decided to start with Nicolas Anelka on the bench and Didier Drogba caused Fulham all sorts of problems in the opening stages.

Florent Malouda fed the Ivorian striker with a delicate reverse ball but Drogba drove his shot into the side-netting, wide of the near post.

Chelsea full-back Jose Bosingwa was frustrated to concede a free-kick for a foul on Andrew Johnson - and Fulham took full advantage to take a 10th-minute lead.

John Mikel Obi failed to deal with Simon Davies' curling free-kick as it bounced at the far post and Dempsey controlled the ball on his chest before flicking it past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Drogba worked space in the Fulham box with a neat turn past Aaron Hughes to slide his shot between Mark Schwarzer's legs and was unfortunate to see the ball roll agonisingly wide.

Match Stats Fulham Chelsea
Goals 2 2
Possession 41% 59%
Goal attempts 5 23
On Target 2 8
Corners 1 7
Off-sides 1 4
Saves 6 0
Fouls 11 9
Yellows 1 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
Chelsea were laying siege to the Fulham box. Hughes did well to shepherd the ball out for a corner when Drogba latched onto a knock-down from Malouda.

Malouda was replaced by Anelka after half an hour and his first touch teed up a stinging drive from 25 yards that Schwarzer could only parry clear off his thigh.

Chelsea's reshuffle saw Joe Cole pushed into a more advanced role on the right and they continued to dominate possession but Fulham were bright on the ball and Cech needed to intercept a low cross from Bobby Zamora before Dempsey could pounce again.

Chelsea then made their second change with Alex replaced after 36 minutes by Ricardo Carvalho, who returned to action after nearly three months out with a knee injury.

Bosingwa teed up Lampard for another strike from outside the box and Schwarzer did well to scramble across and push it behind for a corner.

Fulham were under pressure right from the restart with Brede Hangeland and then Dickson Etuhu forced into vital rearguard action as Drogba linked with Cole down the left flank.

Branislav Ivanovic unleashed a fierce volley from outside the Chelsea box which Schwarzer appeared to have covered, though he was saved the bother as the ball slammed straight into Anelka's midriff.

Four minutes into the second half the pressure finally told as Lampard pounced on a mix-up between Hughes and Schwarzer to put Chelsea level.

Hughes, retreating towards his own goal to deal with Deco's lofted ball and under pressure from Drogba, collided with Schwarzer and Lampard was able to slot the loose ball home.

Chelsea ramped up the pressure further. Lampard's pin-point 50-yard ball bisected Hughes and John Pantsil to find Drogba who took one touch but then rifled his shot over the bar.

Chelsea switched their point of attack to Cole, who forced Schwarzer to make two sharp saves in the space of a minute as Fulham continued to be stretched.

But there was no hint of Fulham, driven by the industrious Dempsey and Danny Murphy in midfield, trying to hold on for the draw and when Pantsil cut inside his left-foot shot flew just wide of Cech's near post.

Chelsea fans booed the substitution of Cole but they were soon cheered as Lampard rifled a 25-yard free-kick through a gap in the Fulham wall and under Schwarzer's dive to put Chelsea 2-1 up.

But Fulham refused to roll over and with the clock ticking down earned one final chance - and once again Chelsea were found wanting at a set-piece.

Dempsey rose highest to meet the corner and directed his header inside the unguarded far post.

There was more drama to come as Chelsea piled forward in search of an injury-time winner but Schwarzer pulled off a brilliant double save to deny Cole and then Lampard to seal the draw.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"It was a fantastic fighting effort. Over 90 minutes Chelsea were the better footballing team, but we matched them in so many departments.

"In the second half Chelsea played really well and deserved to go 2-1 up.

"But credit to our players, they didn't lose their heads and they managed to score a wonderful late equaliser."

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari:
"We had six, seven, eight chances to score and got two. They had two, from free-kicks, and scored twice.

"We had more possession, but we made two dangerous mistakes in our box and because of that we've lost two points, it really was just incredible.

"But we're in a good position, we just need to win games, nothing more."

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu (Andreasen 78), Murphy (Baird 90), Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Nevland 78).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Kallio.

Booked: Dempsey (90,ub(took his shirt off after scoring)

Goals: Dempsey 10, 89.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Alex (Carvalho 37), Ashley Cole, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, Joe Cole (Kalou 72), Drogba, Malouda (Anelka 30).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ballack, Ferreira, Belletti.

Booked: Drogba, Bosingwa.

Goals: Lampard 50, 72.

Att: 25,462.

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Source Alex Lowe at PA Sport
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