Smalling Pain Earns Blues Let-Off  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea 2 Fulham 1

Chris SmallingAn own goal from youngster Chris Smalling helped Chelsea to come from behind and record a 2-1 win over Fulham, but Carlo Ancelotti's concerns regarding the fragile confidence of his Premier League title hopefuls will remain.

Zoltan Gera scored an early opener at Stamford Bridge, before Chelsea dramatically turned the game around in the space of two second-half minutes as Didier Drogba equalised and 20-year-old Smalling deflected into his own net.

But it was all very unconvincing from the Blues from the moment Roy Hodgson's visitors had stunned their hosts in just the fourth minute as a Paul Konchesky cross caused panic inside the 18-yard area and Gera was able to hook past Petr Cech.

The recent anxiety of Ancelotti's men was there for all to see whenever a ball was delivered into an area of threat, but it was also a sense of frustration which marked the rest of the half as they failed to test their well-organised neighbours.

Chelsea enjoyed almost complete control of possession after the break, but Fulham showed why they had lost only once in 12 league games prior to kick-off and it was only an excellent header from Drogba that drew the Blues level in the 73rd minute.

Smalling, starting in place of the injured Brede Hangeland, then had his moment of heartbreak in the 75th minute as his superb display was spoilt when a cross-shot from substitute Daniel Sturridge deflected off his shins and over the goalline.

Chelsea's unconvincing performance, which was one dimensional and lacked imagination, will have given their title rivals further encouragement that the championship race is far from over, despite the Blues restoring a five-point lead.

Jose Mourinho, watching from the stands in preparation for Inter Milan's UEFA Champions League clash against his former club, will also have been encouraged by what he saw.

Ancelotti reacted to Chelsea's run of just one victory in five matches by making six changes.


Only John Terry remained from the back four that started the goalless draw against Birmingham with Ricardo Carvalho, Yury Zhirkov and Paulo Ferreira joining him.

Midfielders Joe Cole and Michael Ballack also returned, while Drogba and Salomon Kalou played their last matches in club colours before heading off to the African Cup of Nations.

But despite the shake-up Chelsea suffered from an abysmal lack of penetration in the final third where vast reams of possession were wasted amid a flurry of mishit shots.

In contrast, Fulham were able to unpick their opponents as early as the fourth minute.

Konchesky found acres of space on the left before launching a cross that deceived Terry and the England skipper watched in horror as Bobby Zamora, stationed six yards out, found Gera.

The Hungarian was stood at point-blank range but still had work to do as he controlled the ball, turned and planted his shot beyond Cech.

Gera celebrated with a back flip but whatever the scoreline said it was all Chelsea with Fulham struggling to string more than a couple of passes together.

Only resolute defending was keeping the blue horde at bay with Konchesky executing a well-timed tackle on Frank Lampard as the England midfielder weaved his way into the area.

Less of a threat

For all their possession, however, Chelsea were failing to create any chances and were becoming less of a threat as the match progressed.

Cech had to palm a shot by Clint Dempsey over the crossbar after the American had been expertly set up by Zamora, whose physical presence was causing Chelsea problems.

Referee Andre Marriner told captains Danny Murphy and Terry to speak with John Pantsil and Drogba in response to the African rivals' running battle.

It was then Schwarzer's turn to talk to Drogba following his challenge on Pantsil and moments later the Ivorian was floored by a kick from his nemesis after his thunderbolt had been blocked.

Chelsea enjoyed a lucky escape seconds after the interval when a poorly-judged back-pass by Carvalho was intercepted by Zamora, whose shot cannoned off the leg of the advancing Cech.

Schwarzer was pressed into action on the hour when he made a fine stop from Drogba's curling effort from the edge of the area.

Fulham's defence was finally starting to creak but two poor shots by Kalou and Lampard let them off the hook.

Chelsea replaced Mikel with Sturridge and Fulham brought on Andy Johnson for Gera as the match entered the final 20 minutes.

The equaliser finally arrived in the 73rd minute, substitute Branislav Ivanovic picking out Drogba who rose after Chris Baird lost the ball in the floodlights at the far post to nod home.

And two minutes later Chelsea stormed ahead when Smalling, attempting to clear Schwarzer's save from Sturridge's shot, turned the ball into his own net for the winner.


Team Statistics






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Tackles Success






Territorial Advantage



Chelsea  Cech, Ferreira (Ivanovic 64), Carvalho, Terry, Zhirkov (A. Cole 84), Mikel (Sturridge 70), Ballack, Lampard, J. Cole, Kalou, Drogba
Subs Not Used
  Hilario, Alex, Belletti, Kakuta
Booked  Drogba
Goals  Drogba 73, Smalling (og) 75

Fulham  Schwarzer, Pantsil (Etuhu 66), Hughes, Smalling, Konchesky, Duff (Riise 85), Murphy, Baird, Dempsey, Gera (Johnson 71), Zamora
Subs Not Used Zuberbuhler, Kallio, Greening, Nevland
Booked Baird
Goals Gera 4

Attendance 41,805

Referee A. Marriner


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