It was a consecutive stalemate at the Bridge and in similar fashion to Sunday’s match, mostly sound defending at one end was in contrast to a shortage of attempts on target at the other.

The Blues looked like a side that had not won for four games. There was an edginess to some of the passing that led to attacks breaking down to often. Fernando Torres had the best Chelsea attempt of the first half, Ramires the best in the second although neither truly troubled Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.

The visitors who kept many men back for most of the game, tried to catch Rafael Benitez’s side on the break after half-time and Petr Cech, a spectator first-half, had to be sharp to save twice.

Team news
There was a small amount of squad rotation by Benitez, Oriol Romeu coming in at the base of the midfield for John Mikel Obi and Ryan Bertrand lining up in midfield on the left flank, Juan Mata named on the bench. Having kept a clean sheet on Sunday, the defence was unchanged.

Fulham restored former Chelsea player Damien Duff and Hugo Rodallega to their side. Mahamadou Diarra came in to their midfield in place of Chris Baird.

First half
A skied shot by Ramires was the main moment of a quiet opening 10 minutes in which Chelsea had enjoyed territorial advantage. Torres to Bertrand and Oscar to Torres had been clever passes that threatened to open Fulham up but in the end to no avail.

It took until the 17th minute before Fulham created anything remotely like a chance – Berbatov jumping to meet Riise’s cross but with David Luiz marking tightly, the Bulgarian could do nothing but hook the ball skywards. Cech would remain largely idol for the whole half.

Midway through it Rodallega handballed 30 yards out from the Fulham goal and with Mata on the bench, David Luiz had a clear run at the free-kick. Unfortunately his effort was more suited to the New Zealand All-Blacks who were inside Stamford Bridge watching the game.

On 29 minutes Chelsea sprung forward with some zip in our play – started by an Ivanovic charge and then an Azpilicueta cross low to Torres. The Spaniard, controlling it with back to goal, spun sharply enough but hit his left-foot shot straight at Schwarzer.

Torres somewhat fortuitously was awarded a free-kick on the left-hand edge of the Fulham penalty five minutes later but Hazard’s attempt to slip the ball behind the wall to Oscar floundered. The Belgian clipped the leg of one of the opponents lined up ahead of him.

Chelsea were forcing Fulham deeper and deeper but with all but two white shirts often back in their own area, it was a tough job penetrating the Cottagers rearguard. Romeu, who minutes before had tried his best to hit Torres early with a pass from halfway, was fouled by Steve Sidwell 35 yards out. This time David Luiz played the free-kick out wide but Azpilicueta’s cross was too deep. It was symbolic of a half when attacking attempts by both sides were disjointed.

Second half
The second period picked up where the first left off – Chelsea pressing against a shut white-and-black backdoor. Hazard helped on a pass in the direction of Oscar who was running inside the six-yard box but Diarra had tracked the Brazilian’s run and tackled.

Then on 55 minutes Fulham had the chance to counter-attack for the first time in the match. Chelsea had got ourselves into a mess on halfway and the ball was lofted forward to Riise, breaking from left-back.With Cech to beat from a tight-ish angle and the ball bouncing high, the Norwegian made a poor connection on his shot.

Mata was asked to add a creative spark so far missing when he was introduced just past the hour, Bertrand making way. The Spaniard was soon taking the best delivered corner of the game so far and Ivanovic was annoyed with himself to only glance it with his back, sending it wide of the far post.

Ivanovic picked up the game’s first caution, for dissent after Romeu had fouled, then Romeu himself was shown a yellow for impeding a Fulham break. The hat-trick of bookings was completed soon after with David Luiz entering the book for what the ref said was tug back on Riether. It looked harsh. The Brazilian will now miss a game through suspension.

A minute later, Riise struck a shot with much more characteristic power and it looked to be creeping inside the near post until Cech intervened.

On 76 minutes, Romeu again sought out Torres with a pass from deep and for a moment the striker appeared to have chested it through a crowd but the chance to shoot didn’t materialise. Fulham wanted a penalty with 10 minutes left on the clock after substitute Frei had dribbled and tumbled but replays showed Ramires had excelled in getting a boot to the ball first.

Still the white blockade held firm. Marko Marin was introduced for his Premier League debut with time running out. As stoppage time began, Ramires bore down on the Fulham goal with the visitors back peddling but when the shot was released, Riether was able to block.

The seconds ticked by until Mata took a corner – half-cleared just outside the area but Azpilcueta planted the final kick of the game a couple of yards wide.

With West Brom losing, the point takes Chelsea back into third place on goal difference.

(4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Romeu; Hazard (Marin 82), Oscar, Bertrand (Mata 62); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Mikel, Moses.
Booked Ivanovic 67, Romeu 69, David Luiz 73.

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Diarra (Baird 63), Sidwell, Rodallega (Petri? 83); Karagounis (Frei 73); Berbatov.
Unused subs Etheridge, Kelly, Kasami, Dejagah.

Referee Anthony Taylor


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