Late drama at Craven Cottage as Petr Cech keeps out Dempsey's penalty
By Mark Ashenden
Petr Cech's last-minute penalty stop salvaged Chelsea a point at Fulham but their title hopes continue to fade.
The hosts rarely threatened before Clint Dempsey was fouled by David Luiz in stoppage time, only for Cech to keep out the American's spot-kick.
Fernando Torres was wasteful as Chelsea dominated, the Spaniard's touch letting him down when put through by Luiz and then nodding over a cross by Ramires.
Michael Essien went close with a header before the late drama unfolded.
It was a breathtaking finish to a match that had, up until the 93rd minute, been a quite unspectacular event.
Fulham, on the back of three home victories, would have sensed more blood going into this battle at Craven Cottage against the defending Premier League champions and although they created precious little, Mark Hughes' team will rue their missed opportunity to snatch victory and rise to ninth in the table.
We deserved to beat Fulham - Ancelotti
It was a mistake by Luiz, who otherwise had been a phenomenal performer for the visitors, that gifted Fulham their late chance. The Brazilian carelessly knocked into the legs of Dempsey to concede the penalty but was reprieved when the American blasted straight at Cech's tall frame and then acrobatically blazed the rebound high and wide.
The late heroics by Cech may have salvaged a point for Chelsea, but it was not the win demanded by boss Carlo Ancelotti and his fifth-place side are now 12 points off leaders Manchester United with 12 games remaining - and a top-four Champions League spot is also in the balance.
Following last weekend's defeat by Liverpool, the Italian boss opted to leave out striker Didier Drogba, with the scoring responsibilities falling to Nicolas Anelka and Torres.
And for all the possession and pretty build-up play, much of the Blues' attacks lacked bite in the final third and it was Fulham, buoyed by their recent renaissance, who created the match's first chance on eight minutes.
Damien Duff burst through on the right to cross for Andrew Johnson lurking in the six-yard box and only a timely interception by Luiz guided the ball high and over the bar.
Luiz, making his first start for the defending champions following his recent £21m move from Benfica, was showing plenty of assured touches at the back and also going forward but chances continued to be at a premium for both London sides.
Hughes admits to penalty nerves
Soon after Duff had a shot fumbled by Cech, the visitors produced a rare spark as they went close to an opener after half an hour.
Branislav Ivanovic was proving to be a menace wide on the right and after his cross was hooked over by Frank Lampard, the Serbian defender had a miscued shot punched over by keeper Mark Schwarzer.
Following a lacklustre debut against his former club Liverpool last week, Torres again struggled to find his feet but had two great chances before the break to make amends.
His first miss was down to a timely sliding tackle by Aaron Hughes, but the second was a shocker as the Spaniard stormed through on goal from a delicious looping through-ball from Luiz, only for the ball to bobble away off his left boot.
Torres continued to have chances after the interval and, again, he was wasteful as the 26-year-old rose well to nod over a dangerous cross from Ramires, before curling over from the left minutes later.
While Hughes barked orders from the sidelines for his increasingly cautious players to push forward, Chelsea remained dominant in possession but seemed strangely intent on shooting from long range.
After his side was refused a penalty when Florent Malouda was carelessly bundled over by Brede Hangeland, Ancelotti decided to bring on extra firepower.
With 20 minutes left, off trudged Torres, who had lasted four minutes longer than in his debut, leaving Ancelotti to hope that Drogba could come off the bench to produce some late fireworks.
The Ivorian striker showed some much-needed urgency and a chance soon fell to Essien, who narrowly missed making contact with a header after a bending cross from Lampard.
But totally against the run of play, it was Dempsey who had the last chance to steal all three points, only to be thwarted by the athleticism of Cech.
It was a scrappy encounter that only sparked occasionally into life, and despite Cech accepting the cheers at the end, this might just have been the night when Chelsea's fading hopes of back-to-back titles were finally extinguished.
90:00+4:48 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00+3:32 Effort from deep inside the area by Clint Dempsey misses to the right of the goal. Unfair challenge on Simon Davies by John
Terry results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Simon Davies.
90:00+3:28 Placed penalty taken by Clint Dempsey saved by Petr Cech. Fulham 0-0 Chelsea.
90:00+2:14 Penalty awarded for an unfair challenge on Clint Dempsey by Marinho David Luiz.
90:00+0:42 Zoltan Gera concedes a free kick for a foul on Branislav Ivanovic. Marinho David Luiz restarts play with the free kick.
90:00+0:42 Booking Zoltan Gera goes into the referee's book.
89:36 Simon Davies has a header from inside the six-yard box and clears the crossbar.
88:12 Carlos Salcido sends in a cross.
87:17 Eidur Gudjohnsen fouled by Michael Essien, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Brede Hangeland.
86:00 Didier Drogba has an effort at goal from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
85:13 Didier Drogba gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Damien Duff. Mark Schwarzer takes the indirect free kick.
84:55 Unfair challenge on Michael Essien by Eidur Gudjohnsen results in a free kick. Michael Essien restarts play with the free
84:18 Header from deep inside the penalty area by Salomon Kalou goes harmlessly over the crossbar.
83:17 Zoltan Gera concedes a free kick for a foul on Branislav Ivanovic. Free kick crossed left-footed by Florent Malouda from right
wing, clearance made by Brede Hangeland.
82:02 Substitution Zoltan Gera is brought on as a substitute for Danny Murphy.
82:02 Substitution (Fulham) makes a substitution, with Eidur Gudjohnsen coming on for Moussa Dembele.
81:46 Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a save.
81:25 Ramires takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
80:15 The ball is crossed by Didier Drogba.
77:24 Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Frank Lampard. Frank Lampard crosses the ball.
76:18 Michael Essien takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.
74:27 The ball is sent over by Chris Baird, clearance made by John Terry.
73:04 Substitution Andrew Johnson goes off and Simon Davies comes on.
72:51 Ramires produces a right-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the goal.
72:22 Frank Lampard takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
71:34 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Frank Lampard from the right by-line, clearance made by Clint Dempsey.
70:21 Substitution Didier Drogba joins the action as a substitute, replacing Fernando Torres.
69:46 Corner taken by Florent Malouda from the left by-line, Header from deep inside the area by Marinho David Luiz goes over the
69:26 Carlos Salcido concedes a free kick for a foul on Salomon Kalou. Marinho David Luiz takes the direct free kick.
68:08 Marinho David Luiz takes a shot.
67:51 The ball is sent over by Ashley Cole, clearance by Carlos Salcido.
66:17 Florent Malouda produces a right-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses right.
64:53 Substitution Nicolas Anelka leaves the field to be replaced by Salomon Kalou.
63:34 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Florent Malouda from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Chris Baird.
63:23 Nicolas Anelka takes a shot. Blocked by Brede Hangeland.
63:06 Carlos Salcido takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.
60:14 Carlos Salcido crosses the ball, clearance by Marinho David Luiz.
58:59 Corner taken by Danny Murphy from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Frank Lampard.
56:46 Fernando Torres gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Carlos Salcido. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free
54:34 The ball is crossed by Florent Malouda, Aaron Hughes manages to make a clearance.
53:28 Ramires takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.
52:02 Left-footed shot by Florent Malouda went wide right of the target.
50:43 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Steve Sidwell by Ramires. Free kick taken by Brede Hangeland. The referee blows
for offside. Marinho David Luiz restarts play with the free kick.
49:57 Fernando Torres has an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the right of the target.
49:28 Brede Hangeland gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nicolas Anelka. Marinho David Luiz restarts play with the
49:22 The ball is crossed by Carlos Salcido, clearance made by Marinho David Luiz.
46:36 The ball is delivered by Ramires, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Fernando Torres goes harmlessly over
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+1:36 The players leave the pitch at half time.
45:00+0:06 Florent Malouda is ruled offside. Mark Schwarzer takes the indirect free kick.
44:32 Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Blocked by Ramires.
44:03 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.
43:24 Nicolas Anelka has an effort at goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.
42:20 Steve Sidwell concedes a free kick for a foul on Michael Essien. Direct free kick taken by Marinho David Luiz.
42:20 Booking Steve Sidwell booked.
41:50 Carlos Salcido crosses the ball.
37:38 Branislav Ivanovic challenges Moussa Dembele unfairly and gives away a free kick. Shot comes in from Danny Murphy from the
free kick, save by Petr Cech.
37:38 Booking The referee cautions Branislav Ivanovic for unsporting behaviour.
36:39 Steve Sidwell sends in a cross, Michael Essien makes a clearance.
36:30 Chris Baird crosses the ball, John Terry manages to make a clearance.
35:22 Moussa Dembele challenges Michael Essien unfairly and gives away a free kick. Michael Essien restarts play with the free kick.
32:59 The referee blows for offside against Nicolas Anelka. Mark Schwarzer takes the indirect free kick.
32:11 Corner taken by Frank Lampard, Close range header by Branislav Ivanovic goes wide of the left-hand post.
31:44 Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot. Save by Mark Schwarzer.
31:00 Shot from just outside the box by Florent Malouda goes over the bar.
30:09 Shot from just outside the area by Carlos Salcido misses to the right of the target.
29:19 Moussa Dembele produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide right of the target.
28:22 Unfair challenge on Clint Dempsey by Ramires results in a free kick. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.
27:44 Branislav Ivanovic produces a cross, Effort on goal by Frank Lampard from inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the
26:10 Ashley Cole concedes a free kick for a foul on Damien Duff. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Chris Baird, save made
by Petr Cech.
24:51 Inswinging corner taken by Damien Duff from the right by-line, save made by Petr Cech.
24:43 The ball is sent over by Damien Duff, blocked by Ashley Cole.
23:57 Damien Duff takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.
21:36 Danny Murphy takes the inswinging corner, save by Petr Cech.
20:47 Foul by Branislav Ivanovic on Clint Dempsey, free kick awarded. Carlos Salcido restarts play with the free kick.
19:41 Chris Baird takes a shot. John Terry gets a block in.
16:28 Frank Lampard takes a shot. Blocked by Brede Hangeland. Ramires takes a shot. Carlos Salcido gets a block in. Outswinging
corner taken by Florent Malouda from the left by-line, Brede Hangeland fouled by Branislav Ivanovic, the ref awards a free
kick. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.
14:19 Unfair challenge on Carlos Salcido by Ramires results in a free kick. Carlos Salcido restarts play with the free kick.
13:57 Branislav Ivanovic delivers the ball, Steve Sidwell manages to make a clearance.
12:38 Andrew Johnson takes a shot. John Terry gets a block in.
12:10 A cross is delivered by Chris Baird, Petr Cech makes a save.
10:21 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aaron Hughes by Fernando Torres. Mark Schwarzer takes the indirect free kick.
9:23 Shot from a long way out by Frank Lampard goes wide of the left-hand post.
8:44 Centre by Branislav Ivanovic, Brede Hangeland makes a clearance.
6:38 Foul by Chris Baird on Florent Malouda, free kick awarded. Ashley Cole restarts play with the free kick.
5:39 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff, Ashley Cole makes a clearance.
5:27 Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Marinho David Luiz gets a block in.
3:07 Free kick awarded for a foul by Clint Dempsey on Branislav Ivanovic. Petr Cech takes the free kick.
2:48 The assistant referee signals for offside against Fernando Torres. Indirect free kick taken by Chris Baird.
1:24 Andrew Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Marinho David Luiz. Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.
0:00 The game begins.
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