Chelsea 3 Fulham 1
Optimistic of taking all three points as we walked the short distance down the Fulham Road we were soon to be following a familiar road of dejection regarding any chance of a Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge.
With the side shorn of Andrew Johnson and Simon Davies but with Bobby Zamora declared fit and Erik Nevland starting, we had hoped that our opposition would rest several key players ahead of their clash with Barcelona, but that wasn`t the case. Even with Michael Ballack on the bench their starting eleven looked very strong.
Nevertheless nothing could have prepared us for the opening tem minutes. Who`d have thought, after so many 0-0 draws on the road, there`d be three goals in the opening exchanges?
Unfortunately for us the first of those had us staring down the barrel of a first minute goal. Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba scythed open our normally reliable defence to allow Nicolas Anelka to slot easily past Mark Schwarzer.
But, instead of capitulating, we came back three minutes later to silence the home ground. A looping ball over the top saw Erik Nevland racing into acres of space and as he advanced on goal he slipped a low shot past Cech into the far corner, making it two goals in two games for the Norwegian.
The equaliser should have stabilised things but in the ninth minute we were behind again. Drogba was lurking out wide and when he played a ball across the area, somewhere near the penalty pot, John Pantsil couldn`t get a clearing foot to it and Malouda, in acres of space, picked his spot perfectly to leave Schwarzer stranded.
Sadly, it wasn`t the last time we were to be picked off as some fluent Chelsea passing moves opened us up, but thankfully, Chelsea were unable to capitalise. Pushing forward ourselves, Nevland was the victim of a crunching, fair, tackle from John Terry, a tackle that was ultimately to see the Norwegian limp off just after the half hour mark to be replaced by Diomansy Kamara.
Trying to get an equaliser, Murphy saw a shot deflected over the bar by Terry and Zamora fired one just wide. As the half time whistle sounded we were losing 2-1 but we`d, despite that very early goal, given a good account of ourselves.
Chelsea showed the size of their squad by replacing Alex with Ivanovic and Essien with Ballack at half time and any hopes we had of getting back on level terms were extinguished only seven minutes into the half when Chelsea scored a third.
Anelka, operating out on the right, slipped a good ball through to Drogba and the powerful striker shrugged off his marker to slip the ball past Schwarzer as he advanced to narrow the angle. At 3-1 you thought it was a mountain too far to climb.
But credit to the lads they never gave up and as the game approached its final minutes forced Chelsea into some desperate clearances. A defeat when many expected us to at least get a share of the spoils and a defeat to our nearest rivals always hurts but we`ll get over it, it`s still been a tremendous season and we`ll look forward to Villa, at home, next week.
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