That boy Clint Dempsey produced two moments of magic to help snatch a point that felt more like a victory. Despite Chris Baird's impressive performance at Spurs it was a relief to see Brede Hangeland striding out at the start of this game. Jimmy Bullard, although involved in the pre-match warm-up, wasn't fit enough to play and his place was filled by the imposing physical presence of Dickson Etuhu.
The opening exchanges were a little ragged as we struggled to get our passing game under control and Chelsea were in the ascendancy by the time Clint popped up to put us ahead on ten minutes. Simon Davies curling in a free kick which evaded everyone bounced in the six yard box and was flicked home by an alert Clint Dempsey with the outside of his left boot. That goal only spurred Chelsea into action and we survived a catalogue of near misses as they searched for an equalizer. Drogba dragged a shot inches wide of the post when it seemed certain he'd score. Anelka (on for the injured Malouda) fired a blistering shot straight at Schwarzer who somehow managed to punch it clear. Lampard had a (deflected) shot from distance tipped over the bar by the big Aussie. It was pretty much one way traffic. Chelsea were forced into another change as centre-back Alex hobbled off to be replaced by Carvalho (hardly weakening the side but maybe slightly reducing their aerial prowess).
A moment of humour was provided by a couple of Deco corners directly in front of the Hammy End. Andy Johnson took up his usual (seemingly pointless) position 10 yards from the corner. Deco sent his first attempt straight into AJ's stomach. A second corner was eventually won only for Deco to smash his second attempt into AJ's head.
We made it to the half time break with our lead still intact but within 5 minutes of the restart were back on level terms. Having survived so many decent efforts on our goal it was disappointing to concede in such a sloppy fashion. A ball was whipped high into the box towards the ever dangerous head of Didier Drogba, Schwarzer and Hughes collided as all three players stretched for the cross, and Frank Lampard was lurking to tap home into the open net. It was all Chelsea now and for the first time at home this season we were genuinely outplayed. We continued to try and do the things we normally do but found it desperately hard to get hold of the ball. When Chelsea had the ball they moved it quickly and efficiently and had us chasing shadows, when we had it they closed us down smartly and limited our passing options. Etuhu grew into the game, standing off players too much early on but gradually growing in confidence. Murphy, despite his lack of possession, had that sense of calmness when he did get the ball that made a big difference.
We were being battered and when the Chelsea got their second goal it seemed the game was beyond us. Coming from a free-kick just outside the penalty area, Lampard sent a decent but not unstoppable drive straight into the net. It bounced and ricocheted on it's way through our wall and yet somehow eluded the outstretched hand of Mark Schwarzer. Lampard, who'd been booed throughout by a loud and passionate home crowd, ran towards the away fans pounding his chest and kissing his badge. There was no surrender though we were now being forced into hoofs up the pitch as the Blues piled the pressure on. With about ten minutes to play Hodgson made a double substitution bringing on Nevland for Zamora and Andreasen for Etuhu. Both players, whilst not directly involved in the final coup d'etat, made a significant difference to the game bringing fresh legs and enthusiasm to the team just when we needed it. Simon Davies also played a big part in swinging the impetus back in our favour and it was his corner that curled majestically over the penalty area to find a spring heeled Dempsey at the far post who headed home from a difficult angle. Dempsey charged towards the home end, shirt swinging above his head as the Cottage crowd went into meltdown. Chris Baird replaced Danny Murphy as we survived the tense final minutes of added time.
The celebrations as the whistle blew showed how much this point meant to us all (fans and players). It really felt like we'd won the game. It's been a great Christmas and a wonderful year, roll on 2009.
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.
Goals: Dempsey 10, 89 Booked: Dempsey
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.
Goals: Lampard 50, 72 Booked: Drogba, Bosingwa
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands)
League Position: 9th