Fulham 1 Chelsea 2
There I was stood on the South Bank of the River Thames last night admiring the fireworks and seriously believing that 2008 would bring us a change of luck.
I imagined `Lady Luck` looking down on me, smiling and giving me a knowing nod, a nod recognising that, at last, my football team would do better than in the previous year. After all, after winning only four games all last year in the Premier League, that shouldn`t be too much to ask for should it.
I might have known that simply turning over a page in a calendar would have minimal effect. However, for forty-five minutes, I had a slight suspicion that we`d benefitted from the `change of manager` syndrome that inevitably heralds a change in fortune.
We were 1-0 up against Chelsea and we had not given them much of a look in, indeed, the `Chavs` from down the road looked anything but title winning material. Then things slowly but surely changed as we fell victim to that old second half syndrome that sees us go to pieces.
It had all started so well for Roy Hodgson in his first game in charge. He`d opted for Moritz Volz to back up Elliot Omozusi on one flank with Bouazza being suspended. Things looked good from the off. Kamara forced an early save out of Hilario and when Wright-Phillips wasted a golden opportunity by dragging an effort wide, you knew it might turn out okay.
Ten minutes into the half we even took the lead when Joe Cole fouled Volz as he darted into the box. Murphy, as cool as ice, sent the keeper the wrong way and dreams of rising up the table were being partially realised. Chelsea were off the pace and had no answer to our pressing game. Then came half time. Just why do we have to have a break?
The second half saw Chelsea emerge a different team. The happy chap in charge pulled off Sidwell and threw on Mikel and it made a difference. However, with fingers crossed I hoped we`d hang on, especially after Stefanovic blatantly handled as Wright-Phillips turned a cross back into the area.
Then the wheels fell off big time.
W e failed to defend a Belletti corner kick, Alex rose to head back across goal and Kalou headed powerfully home. Never mind I thought, one point would do. Then ten minutes later it was effectively over as a competition. Belletti threw in a good looking free kick and Dempsey tried to exchange shirts with Ballack some thirty minutes early, It was a penalty.
Ballack strode forward and drilled it low into the corner sending Niemi the wrong way. Hodgson threw on three substitutes but to no avail. We`re staring relegation in the face.
The sad thing is that we couldn`t beat the `Chavs` when they had eight star names missing and were there for the taking in that first half. Hodgson, you`ve one hell of a job on your hands.