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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 16:55 GMT
Chelsea 2-1 Fulham
Chelsea midfielder Damien Duff
Damien Duff's first-half winner kept Chelsea in second place as they ground out a win over Fulham.

Duff reacted first to score after Edwin van der Sar saved Frank Lampard's powerful effort.

Eidur Gudjohnsen had earlier fired Chelsea ahead, curling his shot round Edwin van der Sar as Fulham stood off for his 12th goal of the season.

Fulham levelled when Mark Pembridge's free kick deflected off the wall and looped over keeper Marco Ambrosio.

Frank Lampard fired an early warning shot across Fulham's bows after neat interplay between Gudjohnsen and Hernan Crespo set up the England midfielder to drive his effort across goal.

Fulham failed to heed the warning as Gudjohnsen fired Chelsea ahead on six minutes, taking advantage as Ian Pearce stood off him to curl a shot around Van der Sar for his 12th goal of the season.

KEY MOMENTS
6 mins: Gudjohsen curler puts Chelsea ahead
18 mins: Pembridge levels for Fulham
30 mins: Duff reacts first to put Chelsea ahead

Gudjohnsen almost had a second when he flashed a volley over the bar but Fulham levelled on 18 minutes when Lampard fouled Steve Davis outside the box.

Pembridge's free-kick looped up off Gronkjaer in the defensive wall and over a stranded Marco Ambrosio.

Fulham had to endure some rough weather - and not just from the elements - as Chelsea looked to restore their lead, which they did on 30 minutes.

Lampard was denied from 20 yards by Van der Sar's fine save but Fulham's defenders were slow to react and Duff collected the loose ball to step inside Sylvain Legwinski and bury his shot confidently.

Gronkjaer was having one of his mercurial afternoons and on two occasions he teased, tormented and tested Moritz Volz with pacy, mazy runs.

Van der Sar had to react sharply again on 38 minutes when Geremi's intended cross caught on the wind and turned into a shot which the big Dutchman turned over the bar.

Chelsea replaced Gronkjaer with Scott Parker at half-time but Duff still gave Chelsea width and a slinky run unsettled the Fulham defence. When Geremi's cross came in Pearce slid in to deny Crespo.

Fulham seemed out-of-sorts and Van der Sar gave Legwinski both barrels as he gave Duff space to pick out Lampard who fired inches over the bar.

But Chelsea's one-goal lead was never entirely comfortable and when Davis swung in a free-kick, Pearce climbed highest to head the ball across goal where Parker hacked clear.

Derek Hayles lacked support up front and with 18 minutes left, Fulham sent young Liberian striker Collins John on for his first Premiership appearance.

Chelsea needed the cushion of a third goal but Geremi shot weakly at Van der Sar after Gudjohnsen cleverly played him through.

John almost made Chelsea pay with a fierce shot from 25 yards that was always rising over the bar.


Chelsea: Ambrosio, Gallas, Desailly, Terry, Bridge, Gronkjaer (Parker 45), Geremi, Lampard, Duff (Cole 70), Crespo, Gudjohnsen. Subs not used: Sullivan, Mutu, Huth.
Booked: Parker.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Volz, Knight, Pearce, Bocanegra, Malbranque, Legwinski, Pembridge (John 62), Sean Davis, Boa Morte, Hayles (McBride 77). Subs not used: Beasant, Djetou, Goma.
Booked: Legwinski, Boa Morte.

Attendance: 41,169.

Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).


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