Chelsea 0-0 Fulham: Bore Draw Frustrates As Blues Still Goal-Less Under Rafa
Chelsea suffered a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to West London neighbours Fulham as Rafael Benitez goes in search of his first win- and first goal- as manager.
Chelsea suffered a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Fulham as Rafael Benitez goes in search of his first win- and first goal- as manager.
The Spaniard was employed as Chelsea’s new interim coach following the dismissal of fan’s favourite Roberto Di Matteo last week, but received a fiery reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful in his first game in charge. Wednesday night’s welcome was more cold-shoulder than impassioned jeers for Benitez but he will have done nothing to warm himself to the home crowd having failed to even register a goal in two consecutive home games.
Both sides played their part in an altogether dull affair, in a game where Chelsea lost more ground on their Manchester, title-chasing rivals. Fernando Torres came closest to winning the game for the Blues late on with a volley whilst Fulham’s John Arne Riise had the game’s best chance however the Norwegian fluffed his lines.
Benitez will have done himself no favours in controversially dropping Juan Mata for this local derby. The play-maker has been in sparkling form for the club all season and the Spaniard was not introduced till the 63rd minute. In a strange ploy, the ex Liverpool boss opted for Ryan Bertrand in his favour whilst Oriel Romeu replaced John Obi Mikel in two changes from Sunday’s starting XI.
The first half was seriously devoid of any clear cut chances for either side and the first 45 minutes passed by without much incidence: Chelsea uncharacteristically struggled to find any fluency whilst Fulham showed little ambition in the way of attacking the hosts. Torres did have one of the half’s few chances however his attempted shot was scuffed when Cesar Azpilicueta picked him out with a low cross.
David Luiz and Ramires both saw wild attempts on goal fly way off target, which only served to further frustrate the home support as Fulham denied them space. It was clear that the Blues were sorely missing their little Spanish magician who has so often been the difference; his ability to unlock tight defences proving invaluable in their blistering start to the season.
The crowd inside Stamford Bridge saw an improved Chelsea side reappear for the second half, as they showed more endeavour in trying to break the deadlock. Branislav Ivanovich almost gave Chelsea the lead mid-way through the half with a glancing header that went just wide but still Chelsea struggled to carve out chances against a well-drilled and robust Fulham side.
The groans inside the Bridge must have penetrated far enough down to the touchline as Benitez saw fit on the hour mark to introduce Mata. Up until this point, most of the crowd’s attentions seemed to be directed towards ensuring Benitez knows he isn’t wanted at the club whilst the recently axed Di Matteo could hear his name ring around the ground on a number of occasions throughout the game, such was their support for the former player.
Mata introduced urgency to his side’s play yet the chances still came begging for the Blues. Torres- whose form is predicted by pundits to reignite under Benitez- saw a volleyed effort cleared away by Fulham’s Aaron Hughes and it was the visitors who nearly stunned Stamford Bridge with what could have been the winning goal. Giorgos Karagounis played a wonderful ball to Riise who lined up with his notoriously lethal left-foot, only to fail to make enough contact to trouble Petr Cech who made the save.
The game opened up somewhat to a frantic finale with both teams sensing a goal but it remained elusive to both sides on a cold autumn night. The point sees Chelsea move up into third place following West Brom’s defeat to Swansea, yet with both Manchester clubs winning their respective games, the Blues now find themselves six points adrift of second placed Man City. Now without a win in their last six games and falling behind in the race for the title, Benetiz has a lot of work to do to win over the fans and prove he is worth backing. Without even contemplating the conundrum that has become “Fernando Torres” a goal would be a good start to turning things around.
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