Date:Sunday December 31 2006
The Chelsea v Fulham derbies seldom disappoint and the wet and windy conditions helped to make this one no exception. Nor was the drama confined to the match, for Jose Mourinho made a better and more succinct job of panning his team than any critic could have done. 'We can't defend,' said the Chelsea manager, 'and in attack we have one player.'
He meant, of course, Didier Drogba, whose 20th goal of the season had the air of a winner. Or so Chelsea thought. Majestically headed, as if into the eye of the raging storm, from Frank Lampard's delightful little cross, it would have prevented Manchester United from extending their advantage at the top of the Premiership and Chelsea from appearing weaker than at any stage since Mourinho arrived from Portugal in the summer of 2004.
If, however, Sir Alex Ferguson takes a peek at the tape this morning, it will enhance the happiness of his 65th birthday. Even the excitement of becoming eligible for a bus pass will not compare with the sight of the champions continuing to struggle, in the hugely conspicuous absence of John Terry, to contain their neighbours who obtained the point they deserved when a miscued cross from Frank Queudrue bypassed four defenders before falling to Brian McBride, whose shot was stopped by Henrique Hilario only for Carlos Bocanegra to knock in the rebound.
After giving so little away in their first two seasons under Mourinho, Chelsea have become so vulnerable as to exhaust their boss's patience. At least he retains some perspective. Asked if he would throw more of Roman Abramovich's money through the transfer window, Mourinho replied that all he wanted was the best goalkeeper in the world (Petr Cech) and the best central defender (Terry, his trusted captain) back. Cech is not due even to resume training for a week or two, but Terry, after keyhole surgery on his back, expects to be fit in good time for Chelsea's next Premiership match but one, against Liverpool.
But Mourinho is pessimistic about the state of Joe Cole, who has been advised to have an operation on a fractured foot. 'Joe Cole I think is an injury forever, or at least for the season,' he lamented.
'Before our injuries,' said Mourinho, 'the opposition knew they could not score. Now they see one mistake after another and smell their chance.' True, but it is as well to remember that we (Fulham) came to this fixture with just as serious a casualty list as their hosts, notably in midfield and central defence. Yet they showed more character and tactical awareness. 'Maybe I'm not such a good manager,' mused Mourinho, 'and the players are not such good players.' It seemed a bit early in the season for that.
The afternoon had begun predictably with Salomon Kalou, alongside Drogba to the exclusion of Andrei Shevchenko, featuring prominently (if not particularly impressively) in 16 minutes of Chelsea aggression. And then Fulham scored. When Queudrue threw in, a simple dummy by Tomasz Radzinski, who spun away and made himself available for a return ball from Moritz Volz, utterly bewildered Mourinho's rearguard. Volz, with time and space, thought he might as well shoot and, although his effort might not have beaten Hilario without assistance, Ricardo Carvalho obligingly turned his back and provided the slight deflection that took the ball in at the near post.
o Volz scored the 15000 premiership goal.
Wayne Routledge, sidefooting high, missed a chance to increase Fulham's lead, but most of the action remained at the other end. Kalou forced a close-range save from Antti Niemi, the ball squirting up so it looked as if Michael Ballack must score - until Bocanegra splendidly came to the rescue.
When Fulham did concede an equaliser, it was by their own hand, or foot. A ball pumped towards Drogba was instead addressed by Liam Rosenior, whose header went to Lampard. The England midfielder's shot would have gone wide had no one intervened. Poor Rosenior, though, could not get himself out of its way and it ricocheted off his right ankle into the net. An own-goal it had to be, for all Lampard's familiar ring-kissing.
Still Chris Coleman's men probed for weaknesses. It was, Mourinho resolved, time for Shevchenko, who replaced Geremi rather than Kalou as a horde of Chelsea attackers went for ascendancy. It took them four minutes. Two defenders prevented Drogba from reaching Ashley Cole's cross but Lampard chased the loose ball wide and, turning (much in the manner that brought him a goal against Barcelona earlier in the season), measured a perfect ball for Drogba's head. Fulham, though, were to prove anything but finished. As Coleman said: 'We though Chelsea might get a bit nervy - and they did.'
You would think that with all of the money spent at Chelsea that Mourinho could do better considering his bench cost more than the Fulham team but yet again the Chelsea team and Manager fall short of what is expected.....The chosen one!!! you're havin a laugh ain't ya!!!!!
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