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Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Saturday, 2 May 2009 16:55 UK

Chelsea 3-1 Fulham

Nicolas Anelka (left) and Didier Drogba celebrate a Chelsea goal
Goalscorers Anelka and Drogba caused mayhem up front throughout the match

By Jonathan Stevenson

Chelsea warmed up for their Champions League semi-final tie with Barcelona by comfortably seeing off west London rivals Fulham at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues made a lightning start as Nicolas Anelka bundled them ahead after 51 seconds, but Erik Nevland drilled in a leveller only three minutes later.

Florent Malouda fired Chelsea back in front from Didier Drogba's cross and then Drogba slotted home Anelka's pass.

Chelsea could have had plenty more goals after dominating throughout.

But the manner of the performance will have delighted boss Guus Hiddink, coming only four days before their crucial second leg tie at home against Barca.

Hiddink resisted the chance to rest some of his big stars with only Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Ballack making way after the 0-0 Camp Nou draw on Tuesday.


Along with Ashley Cole, Anelka was brought back in as Hiddink sprang a major surprise by ditching his favoured 4-3-3 formation and playing 4-4-2, with Anelka and Drogba up front.

With 51 seconds on the clock, it was already looking like an inspired move.

Anelka broke with pace and fed the ball out to the left to Malouda and the winger fired over a cross that Drogba cushioned into Anelka's path for the Frenchman to prod home.

Stamford Bridge was buzzing, but Fulham had a surprise up their sleeve too and within three minutes parity had been restored.

Danny Murphy's pass from inside his own half found Alex unsuccessfully trying to play the offside trap, as Nevland latched on to the ball and ran clear of the Brazilian.

Hiddink criticises 'sloppy' Chelsea

Having got into the box, Nevland drilled a low shot from a tight angle on the right that brushed the gloves of Petr Cech - who should have done better - before nestling into the far corner.

It was an electric start and Chelsea immediately set about regaining their lead, which they achieved with barely 10 minutes gone.

The same trio that fashioned the first again came up trumps as Anelka played Drogba in down the right and his cross was fired past Mark Schwarzer by the impressive Malouda.

Fulham fought to stay in the game and Nevland showed fine technique to volley narrowly over, but Chelsea's dominance increased as the game wore on.

Drogba had the ball in the net from a Frank Lampard cross only to be wrongly flagged offside, while Lampard saw his shot deflected inches wide by Zoltan Gera.

Perhaps with a nod to Wednesday's encounter, Hiddink brought off Alex and Michael Essien at the interval for Ivanovic and Ballack.

Fulham caught out by counter-attacks - Hodgson

It did not take the Blues long to make the three points safe, and Anelka and Drogba were starting to really enjoy their partnership.

It was Anelka's turn to play creator as he slipped a slide-rule pass in for his colleague, Drogba seamlessly gliding past Schwarzer and tucking home number three.

From then on, it was a case of how many Chelsea wanted, such was the control they exerted over their neighbours.

Lampard had a free-kick brilliantly tipped over by Schwarzer, before Drogba poked Anelka's right-wing cross just wide.

But they had already done enough to win and in the process fired a warning shot that will have been heard all the way to Catalonia.

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink on playing 4-4-2:
"We needed the points for today, but we are always trying to look ahead as well, especially with such a big game coming up.

"We wanted to give Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba the chance to play up front together, to increase our options in the future.

"If we ever need another gear in another game we must be able to adjust, to play differently."

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"We made a bad start and then went 2-1 down after our defender slipped, so you're trying very hard not to concede another goal after that.

"Unfortunately they caught us on the break with a third and from then on you are just trying to avoid embarrassment.

"We thought we could come here and get a result, but we were nowhere near our best today and we paid the price."

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex (Ivanovic 46), Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Essien (Ballack 46), Mikel, Malouda, Anelka, Drogba (Di Santo 84).
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Kalou, Belletti, Mancienne.

Goals: Anelka 1, Malouda 10, Drogba 53.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Etuhu, Murphy, Gera, Zamora (Dacourt 76), Nevland (Kamara 35).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Baird, Smalling.

Booked: Murphy.

Goals: Nevland 4.

Att: 41,801.

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka on 8.44 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Hiddink warns Blues over mistakes
02 May 09 |  Chelsea
Premier League as it happened
02 May 09 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
02 May 09 |  Football
Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea
28 Apr 09 |  Europe

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