You like the title of this? I took a little respite from the match reports this weekend, but in catching up on Fulham’s draw with neighbor Chelsea, I thought I’d remark that this had 4 or 5 of the most entertaining stoppage-time minutes I’ve seen this season.
The most notable development in this match was Carlo Ancelotti’s response to the Drogba/Torres/Anelka quandary. The response was to ditch the 4-4-2 diamond formation that had drawn jeers from pundits. Ancelotti started Torres in lieu of Drogba in the 4-3-3 formation, with Malouda and Anelka serving as wingers.
Fulham played in a defensive-minded 4-4-2. Moussa Dembele and Andy Johnson played as strikers, but generally speaking the Fulham attack was stunted and lacked much cohesiveness. Players like Carlos Salcido and Danny Murphy were all-too-willing to concede possession throughout the game, and that led to Chelsea being dominant throughout.
Torres still did not look comfortable in the Blues’ lineup, but the chances were coming his way. He had at least three quality chances in the game that should have been goals. One has to think that Drogba would have finished at least one of those opportunities. Drogba did enter the game in the 71st minute, but his only real opportunity came in the form of a shot well over from 9 yards.
In the 90th minute, one would have been tempted to say that Fulham’s defensive tactic won them the draw. That would have sold short a vigorous ending, which saw the Cottagers’ counterattack come to life. Dempsey received a ball at the edge of the area and broke against Luiz towards the end line. Luiz made his one major mistake of the match, tripping Dempsey without playing the ball. Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot. Luiz might have been the scapegoat, except that Dempsey drilled his penalty straight into Petr Cech’s diving torso. He could not direct the rebound on net. Immediately after that, it looked as though Fulham would have another chance, but Damien Duff’s cross was too far for Dempsey, and the scoreless draw was realized.
Chelsea thoroughly outplayed Fulham, but there continues to be issues within the squad. While they controlled possession and forced Fulham to clog their defensive third, most of their opportunities fell victim to either poor blend or poor form, or both. The Blues’ title hopes are now firmly in the court of needing gobs of help from the opponents of Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as a near-perfect conclusion to their own season.
I will return to “normal programming” this coming weekend for some FA Cup ties. Which would you like to see profiled?