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Thursday Fulham Stuff (29/11/12)...

Started by WhiteJC, November 29, 2012, 04:42:37 AM

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Chelsea 0 Fulham 0: Rafa's men fire blanks again as Benitez can't inspire Torres and co

Rafa Benitez addresses the English-speaking players in their native tongue in the dressing room and communicates in Spanish with the rest of Chelsea's team.

Last night Chelsea's players created a language all of their own and no-one inside the home of the European champions can understand a word of it.

They are speaking gibberish and so is Chelsea's interim manager after his opening two fixtures, both at home, ended in depressing goalless draws.

Frustration: Chelsea striker Fernando Torres (right) gestures to referee Anthony Taylor

Shadow of his former self: Torres (second left) gets in a weak shot on goal

There is another way to describe it and that was the four-lettered verdict offered by Chelsea supporters at the final whistle. No-one can understand what they're seeing, particularly after the club's interim manager left out the creative juices of Juan Mata.

The thing is, Chelsea didn't even play like they wanted to win this match. Not really.

Chelsea fans, the real diehards sat in the Matthew Harding and Shed End, knew that too. They're no mugs; they've been watching John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba dig in to win games like this for years. They sang 'We want our Chelsea back' in the dying minutes.

Two wins in 10 suggests that won't happen any time soon; two successive 0-0 draws, the first time since September 2004, confirms it.

In the past, a home game against Fulham was a routine win, another three points as Chelsea packed off their annoying little neighbours back to Putney. Not any longer.

Protests: Chelsea fans make their feeling known about new boss Rafa Benitez once again

There are lost souls in this Chelsea team, searching for a common goal and a sense of purpose after yet another traumatic managerial change.

A team who have won three Barclays Premier League titles and four FA Cups in the Abramovich era are not only being broken up but destroyed. Chelsea are lacking direction and even the club's own official Twitter feed is giving up on them.

Chelsea's timeline read: 'Corner. I don't need to tell you that nothing comes of it' midway through the first half. It must have been tempting for the author to say so much more. This team are looking for leadership, turning to each other in a time of crisis and wondering when the wheel of fortune will turn in their favour again.

The hostility for Benitez continues and judging by the tribute to Roberto Di Matteo in the 16th minute, when Chelsea fans stood as one to salute their sacked, Champions League-winning manager, it won't be stopping any time soon. No-one can move on just yet. And no-one can blame them.

Chelsea fans are watching a team racked with nerves and indecision, uncertain about the future after the appointment of a manager for six months. Just like their owner, who was sat high up in the stands with his Champions League bench-warming jacket on again, they want Chelsea to play at breakneck speed.

Under the microscope: Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez took charge of Chelsea for the second time

Powerless: Benitez grows more animated on the sidelines as Chelsea failed to find the target

They long for the days when they scored 20 goals in five games against Wolves, Arsenal, Nordsjaelland, Norwich and Tottenham earlier in the season. Chelsea were ripping teams to bits back then, pushing the ball across the pitch with pace and purpose.

Even Fernando Torres was among the goals, finding the back of the net four times in the opening phase of the Premier League season.

Look at him now, a desperate figure looking to rediscover his love of the game again under Chelsea's latest manager. Torres has gone more than 10 hours without a goal in the Premier League and even his strike against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on October 7 was a fluke.

It's almost heartbreaking to watch. On Sunday he touched the ball 27 times and had just one shot. Last night he showed signs of improvement, but not by much; 34 touches, three shots.

The most important statistic is the big fat zero alongside Torres's name after yet another blank.

Crowded out: Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard (centre) and Steve Sidwell (right) battle for the ball

Over the top: Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov skips away from the challenge of Chelsea midfielder Oriel Romeu

The supply line into the Spain striker has been stopped and Chelsea are struggling to fix the problem. Benitez tried to address it, exchanging John Mikel Obi and Mata for the fresh legs of Oriel Romeu and Ryan Bertrand.

The Spain striker managed a shot on target against Fulham in the first half, a half-decent effort straight into the arms of Mark Schwarzer. Perhaps, in times gone by, he might have picked his spot and put his team ahead from that kind of position.

Sadly those days are in the past, all saved for the highlights reel at the end of his career. That's what it is coming to for Torres, unable to function whatever the formation or whatever the first XI.

Instead the moments of class were left to Dimitar Berbatov, captaining his team in the absence of the suspended Brede Hangeland.

At times he was in the mood, wrapping his right foot around the ball and teasing it into the path of his team-mates. He has always been flaky, but remains one of the game's most charismatic forwards.

Tussle: Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand (right) is closed down by Giorgos Karagounis

His awareness and anticipation is the mark of a Champions League player, creating space and time in the tightest positions.

Martin Jol played Berbatov up front alone for Fulham and by the final whistle he had almost twice the number of touches on the ball as Torres. Fulham could have nicked this, particularly when Giorgos Karagounis's wonderful cross-field ball fell into the path of John Arne Riise.

The left back is usually so reliable from these positions, but he miscued an effort 10 minutes after the break. He had another chance 15 minutes from time when his spectacular left-foot shot was beaten away by Petr Cech.

Chelsea barely functioned. Branislav Ivanovic had a penalty appeal turned down 20 minutes from time when his run was halted by Hangeland's deputy, Philippe Senderos. That was about it.

At the final whistle, Abramovich made his way across the pitch for his traditional post-match visit to the dressing room. This time, words will have failed him.

Chance: The ball is played into Torres inside the box...

... but the striker's volley flies harmlessly wide of Mark Schwarzer's goal

More misery: Torres is left to rue another missed chance as his goalless run continued

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Spurs Next Up

Next Match: Fulham v Spurs - Sat 1st Dec (3pm)
Tonight's draw set the scene for an exciting encounter on Saturday when Martin Jol's former club Spurs visit the Cottage this weekend.

A limited number of tickets in home areas remain available to fans with a previous Booking History. Supporters can buy up to six tickets each, but hurry as tickets are limited and going fast.

Make sure you don't miss out on this match and purchase your tickets today. Buy online at or call 0843 208 1234 (Option 1).


Chelsea 0 Fulham 0: We should have nicked it, says Martin Jol
Chelsea 0 Fulham 0: Martin Jol believes his side could have snatched a win in the second half at Stamford Bridge

Martin Jol felt Fulham could have snatched a victory at Chelsea after the Cottagers played out a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The Blues were left waiting for their first goal of the Rafael Benítez era, with the visitors carving out the best chance of the game when John Arne Riise missed his shot after being put through by Giorgos Karagounis.

The draw sees Fulham drop into 11th place in the Premier League table as Chelsea move up above West Bromwich into third on goal difference.

"It is pretty decent to get a point, but I feel we should have nicked it in the second half," Jol told BBC Sport.

"Our shape was good, they had a lot of pressure but we have three or four good chances – nine times out of ten we would have broken them. John Arne Riise's miss was disappointing.

"I told him that he should have shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. He covered 80 or 90 yards and not to score was disappointing.

"We had a lot of players coming back; Mahamadou Diarra was playing his first game, Giorgos Karagounis was lacking a bit of rhythm, and we leave here thinking we could have nicked it."

Meanwhile, Blues interim boss Benítez could not hide his frustration after watching his side stutter to their second goalless draw in four days.

"I am a little frustrated," he said. "The team is well organised and created chances against a team that works hard, so you can see us going forward, but still we have to improve.

"We tried to change things in the second half and get more players making forward runs.

"We have the players who can change the game and we need to link with them and do it quicker, but overall I think we are watching things that are positive. We have to play with a higher tempo for the players that we have up front."


Fulham take all the plus points in derby stalemate with Chelsea

Chelsea 0-0 Fulham

THE CHANTS of 'We want our Chelsea back' from the Matthew Harding End summed up the mood perfectly.

And it was music to the ears of Fulham fans as they witnessed their side claim a fourth successive draw against the neighbours they love to hate - a third in a row in the home of the Blues.

The Whites ended the game making some dangerous raids and dreaming of pulling off a first win at the Bridge for 33 years.

But even if it didn't happen, they were the ones claiming the moral victory at the end. It had been a mostly cautious performance, but it nearly brought the ultimate reward.

Deprived of the injured Bryan Ruiz, Martin Jol's careful approach was understandable, but Chelsea's was less easy to fathom.

A 0-0 draw at home to Man City may not be the end of the world, but against Fulham, it is hardly what Rafa Benitez needs if he is to win over the sceptical fans.

Yet he started out without Juan Mata and there was a much clearer emphasis on keeping things tight at the back than there had been under Roberto Di Matteo – whose name was again chanted to the rafters by home fans.

After a turgid first 45 minutes, the game finally showed signs of life after the break.

John Arne Riise (pictured) came close to scoring his first Fulham goal 10 minutes into the second half – but not as close as he should have done – when he raced onto a perfectly flighted chip from the right by Giorgos Karagounis.

The Norwegian controlled the ball well on his chest, but fluffed his lines when it was time to pull the trigger – mishitting tamely into the turf.

He came closer when he drilled low to Petr Cech's right later on, hurrying the stopper into a save.

Karagounis himself rifled low at Cech after Dimitar Berbatov had rolled the ball to him on the edge of the area, and Chris Baird – on for a labouring Mohamadou Diarra – sent a low shot at Cech from a short free-kick.

But Chelsea finally stirred themselves once Mata was pitched into the fray just past the hour. The midfielder's flighted corner almost yielded an immediate dividend – Bransilav Ivanovic sending a glancing header just wide.

And Aaron Hughes needed to be alert to hook away a volley from Fernando Torres that had beaten Schwarzer.

As non events go, the first half took the biscuit.

Chelsea did most of the pressing, but it never really translated into chances.

Stamford Bridge held its collective breath on the half hour when Torres found some space in the penalty area to get a shot away, but of course nothing came of it.

The struggling Spaniard received a pass from Cesar Azpilicueta on the right and spun onto his left foot to fire through the legs of Hughes, but it was comfortable for Mark Schwarzer.

Ditto a 25-yard effort from Hugo Rodallega before the interval.

It was a shot on target for the sake of it.

At least the second half perked up a bit. But not as much as home fans, or Benitez in particular, would have hoped.

Line ups: CHELSEA: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Hazard (Marin 83), Ramires, Romeu, Bertrand (Mata 63); Oscar; Torres. Subs not used: Turnbull, Mikel, Moses, Ferreira, Cahill.

FULHAM: Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Diarra (Baird 64), Sidwell, Karagounis (Frei 74); Rodallega (Petric 84); Berbatov: Subs not used: Etheridge, Kelly, Kasami, Dejagah.

Attendance: 41,707

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Chelsea 0-0 Fulham: Frantic but Effective

In one of the more tactically exciting 0-0 games (at least the second half, if not the first), Fulham were able to grab a point at Stamford Bridge against one of the better teams in the league.  The last 10 minutes were very back and forth, and Fulham did well to not let one fall in under very heavy pressure. I'll take it.

In the last 6 matches, Fulham have gone DLLDDD. They haven't won since the 1-0 win at home over Villa. They've won 1 match in their last 9. And yet, this one match on its own, it's a good result.

The defense was frantic and required lots of last minute clears that weren't incredibly effective, but did the job.  There were chances on the other end, including a volley that Riise completely flubbed, but I'm not mad we didn't convert.  Getting any points at Stamford Bridge are a positive.

Remember, this is still "survive till January" mode and with all the injuries and depth issues, so it's not the end of the world where we are.  The losses to Stoke and Sunderland were killer, but the situation isn't unredeemable, even though Fulham have now dropped out of the top 10.

The good:

The center-back partnership – Aaron Hughes in particular was good, after a few matches where he's been below par. He and Senderos were serviceable today, especially after the last match where the Swiss was an abomination.  The wing backs were good too; Riise piled up blocks and Riether was his usual rock solid self.  Good showing without Hangeland.

The senior squad – Karagounis and Diarra were excellent in the middle today, and despite giving way for the final quarter of the match after clearly being winded, they were excellent in slowing down the attacks and allowing the defense time to regroup after each assault.

Hugo Rodallega – I was very impressed with Rodallega's defending.  It was obvious Jol told Hugo he would be needed in the back, and that he would be up on counter attacks.  His numbers shocked me (1/5 clearances), but I thought he looked solid helping out.  His ariel play was great, despite being 0/3 in ariel clearances, and 2/4 in ariel duels.  However, clearance numbers are misleading to me, because a successful clear will sometimes fall back to the attacking team, but it still helps at least delay the attack enough to stave off the pressure.

The bad:

The finishing – typical Fulham finishing.  They only had precious few chances in this match, which is to be expected, but they didn't convert anything. Riise absolutely botched Fulham's best chance of the game by almost whiffing on a volley and then losing the ball over the back line after.

The clearing – Fulham defended very well, and cleared very poorly. We could have had way more chances had the clearing been effective in alleviating pressure much quicker.  They're a bit lucky to have not allowed a cheap goal on a failed clearance falling to a Chelsea striker in a good position.

Where from here?:

December is SO VITALLY important coming up.  There are a ton of winnable fixtures that Fulham must take advantage of.  They weren't able to do this against Sunderland and Stoke, they couldn't finish against Reading, they couldn't finish against Southampton.  They've shown today they can hang with a team like Chelsea, so it's time to get a point at home to a surging Spurs, and then pick up 3 points against a reeling Newcastle club, QPR, and Southampton and Swansea at home. They've dropped points in the last 2 months, and it's time to man up. Every club, even the champions, have stretches where they don't play their best.  Top 10 teams learn from their mistakes and in the end use that to beat the teams they should.  That's this time for Fulham. Jol knows it too. More reaction below, but here's the quote that struck me from his reaction, and it pertains to what I was just talking about:

"I am a little frustrated. The team is well organised and created chances against a team that works hard, so you can see us going forward, but still we have to improve...We have the players who can change the game and we need to link with them and do it quicker, but overall I think we are watching things that are positive. We have to play with a higher tempo for the players that we have up front."

Jol's reaction to Chelsea:

On Riise's miss:

"Our shape was good, they had a lot of pressure but we have three or four good chances – nine times out of ten we would have broken them. John Arne Riise's miss was disappointing. I told him that he should have shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. He covered 80 or 90 yards and not to score was disappointing."

On players returning:

"We had a lot of players coming back; Mahamadou Diarra was playing his first game, Giorgos Karagounis was lacking a bit of rhythm, and we leave here thinking we could have nicked it."


Manager Reaction

Following our 0-0 draw with Chelsea, Martin Jol was pleased to leave Stamford Bridge with a point, but admitted that part of him was frustrated that it wasn't all three instead.

Decent chances fell to John Arne Riise in the second half, while Mladen Petrić just failed to connect with a Sascha Riether cross as the clock reached 90 minutes – although the home side had their opportunities to snatch victory too.

"Before the game we knew that it would be difficult," our Manager said. "But, on the other hand, you know that it could be difficult for them as well if you can frustrate them, keep a clean sheet first half and then maybe do something in the second half. And that is exactly what happened.

"Then after 80 minutes we had two possibilities to nick it so it was disappointing in that sense but I don't think we can be too upset because it's a draw away from home. Although I am disappointed that we didn't get the three points, because we need them."

After a drab opening 45 minutes, the game exploded into life in the second half, with both teams gunning for the victory as the match opened up considerably.

"In the second half they put a lot of pressure on us," Jol admitted. "But we had Dimitar Berbatov who was almost unplayable and he linked things up so that other players could support.

"After the game everyone was saying that Berbatov was fantastic, and he was fantastic but the other players worked ever so hard. We lacked a bit of rhythm with a couple of players like Giorgos Karagounis and Mahamadou Diarra, but that's because it's his first game back.

"But, as a team, as a group, I thought they did ever so well."

The result means that the last four league matches between the sides have ended in stalemates, and our Manager is pleased that his Team continue to be a thorn in the side of our local rivals.

"We played them here twice last year and got two draws," he said. "One in the League Cup and one in the League, so I knew that we are a difficult team for them to play against.

"If you keep a clean sheet it's always difficult [for the opposition] because they have to take the initiative and that meant we could try and get them on the break. We did that and we could have nicked it by doing that which would have been bad for them but great for us."


Fearless Fulham further Rafa's torment
by DAN on NOVEMBER 29, 2012

Fulham may have once again failed to win at Stamford Bridge since shortly after Margaret Thatcher took office as Prime Minister, but the days of the Whites being south west London's patronised little brother are long since passed. Whilst Chelsea's disenchanted supporters staged a 'silent protest' in their second game since the unloved Rafa Benitez replaced Roberto Di Matteo and Queen's Park Rangers confront another relegation battle, Martin Jol's boys are buoyant. This point stopped a six game winless streak and, roared on by a racuous away following, it was the least Fulham deserved after a disciplined and defiant display.

Few Stamford Bridge regulars will attach much weight to Benitez's post-match bluster about the Blues being able to compete for the title. The hosts were horribly subdued for much of the evening, with Fernando Torres misfiring once again up front, and there are few signs that Chelsea can bridge a seven point gap to the leaders. The Spaniard admitted to being frustrated at his new side's tame showing, which saw them only extend Mark Schwarzer three times, but Jol was entitled to feel disappointed especially as Fulham finished strongly, with John Arne Riise missing two terrific second-half chances to seal a special win.

The Norwegian left back should certainly have managed more than the tamest of finishes after a splendid pass from the excellent Giorgis Karagounis sent him clear on goal and his more venomous effort from the edge of box was superbly saved by Petr Cech just before the final whistle. Fulham's diligent defending was typified by the outstanding Aaron Hughes, who hooked away a goalbound shot from Torres in a moment of quick thinking that meant the visitors barely missed Brede Hangeland, while Steve Sidwell snapped into tackles with the energy of someone determined to prove a point to his former employers.

Chelsea sorely missed Juan Mata, who was dropped in favour of Oriel Romeu, and only when the Spaniard replaced Ryan Bertrand did they seem capable of breaching the white wall that protected Schwarzer. Without Mata pulling the strengths, Oscar and Eden Hazard looked less than wonderkids and far more workmanlike: the home side only had a tame Torres shot straight at Schwarzer to show for their first half efforts. Chelsea enjoyed plenty of possession, but struggled for potency.

If Benitez asked for better in the second half it took a while for his instructions to filter through. Dimitar Berbatov, again wearing the captain's armband in Hangeland's absence, was peerless at the point of Fulham's attack. The Bulgarian was wrongly ruled offside when he burst clear and Chelsea's fruitless attempts to contain him were epitomised by a Romeu rugby tackle that smacked of frustration. Karagounis lashed a shot straight at Cech and Fulham's fluidity saw Sascha Riether roam forward for right back before his run was cynically halted by a desperate David Luiz elbow.

A derby largely devoid of goalmouth action came to life in the closing stages. Fulham's repelled Chelsea's attacks with vigour, with Hughes and Sidwell throwiung themselves in front of speculative strikes from Mata and Ramires, and the returning Kerim Frei terrorised Cesar Azpilicueta but referee Anthony Taylor waved away the visitors' voicerfous penalty appeals. The home fans greeted the final whistle with boos and plaintive pleas of 'We want our Chelsea back'.

Benitez might have tightened things up at the back, but Chelsea have lost the adventurousness that characterised their bright start to the season. Without it, they look terribly tame. By contrast, Fulham's point was an important one, especially as Jol couldn't field the likes of Hangeland, Alex Kacaniklic, who watched proceedings from the amongst the away support and Bryan Ruiz. Parity was the right outcome, but the white half of south west London went home far happier.

CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, A. Cole, Ivanovic, Luiz; Romeu, Ramires; Hazard (Marin 82), Bertrand (Mata 63), Oscar; Torres. Subs (not used): Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Mikel, Moses.

BOOKED: Ivanovic, Romeu, Luiz.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether, J.A. Riise, Hughes, Senderos; Diarra (Baird 64), Sidwell; Duff, Rodallega (Petric 83), Karagounis (Frei 73); Berbatov. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Kelly, Kasami, Dejagah.

REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Chesire).