Clint Dempsey headed in a late equaliser for Fulham to dent Chelsea’s title hopes heading into 2009.

Fulham had taken the lead early in the first half from a free kick, Dempsey knocking in the first of his two goals from close range.

Lampard equalised just after half time when Schwarzer dropped the ball in the box, leaving the England international with the easiest of goals.

Chelsea were a different side compared to the one seen in the first half, and a second goal seemed to be a question of when, not if.

Lampard provided it with a swerving free kick that flew into the corner past Schwarzer.

But more drama was to follow. Fulham won a late corner and Dempsey rose to head home an unlikely equaliser.

After a busy period of games, Luiz Felipe Scolari opted to shuffle his pack, drafting in Deco and Florent Malouda, and leaving Nicolas Anelka on the bench.

The Blues knew that the pressure was on after Liverpool’s impressive 5-1 demolition of Newcastle, and they started well.

Lampard and Drogba both tested Schwarzer with shots, but some sloppy marking caused Chelsea to go behind after 11 minutes.

Dempsey was allowed to chest the ball from a free kick and poke the ball past Cech and into the net.

Drogba had his second attempt of the match on 19 minutes, skimming a shot across the face of goal after being fed by Mikel.

Chelsea were forced into a change just after the half hour mark with Malouda unable to continue due to a hamstring problem.

Anelka took his place and made an immediate impact, unleashing a shot that was kept out by Schwarzer’s leg.

Ricardo Carvalho was forced into action for the first time in two months as Chelsea suffered another injury, this time to Brazilian defender Alex.

This didn’t interrupt Chelsea’s rhythm however, and Lampard had two more efforts on the Fulham goal before the half was out.

Within minutes of the restart, Lampard had his goal. Aaaron Hughes and Schwarzer got into an almighty mess and the ball broke loose to Lampard, who had the simple task of tapping the ball in.

The away side began to crank up the pressure in search of a winner, but a combination of Schwarzer and some wayward finishing kept the scores level.

Scolari made the slightly questionable decision to take off Joe Cole - one of Chelsea’s better performers - on 72 minutes, but such thoughts were quickly forgotten as Lampard scored his second goal of the afternoon to give Chelsea a deserved lead.

The England midfielder lined up a free kick 25 yards out and crashed in a drive that swerved away from the despairing reach of Schwarzer.

Fulham seemed unable to muster a response, and Chelsea looked set to play out time and secure a vital victory.

But some more sloppy marking put paid to that idea. Simon Davies’ corner was met by Dempsey, whose header went in with Petr Cech a mere spectator.

Craven Cottage went wild, and Luiz Felipe Scolari was left to count the cost of a second successive draw away from home, a result that leaves his side three points behind Liverpool.

Comments

In my opinion that's the best match report you've written so far. It flowed well, was interesting and contained few grammatical errors, well actually only one from my view, which was "if when, not if" which perhaps should have been "of when", although perhaps not if you weren't writing it in that context? Perhaps I'm just an overly-pedantic sub-editor haha?! Anyway, the report was very BBC-esque in the way that it contained and summed up the first few points of the match in the initial few paragraphs and was concise in reflecting on the action. Well done mate, a good report!

Anyway, now to discussing the enigmatic Chelsea. Apart from Frank Lampard, there was no Chelsea player exempt from criticism yesterday. Two wins in seven league matches is quite frankly, not good enough. Okay, four of those have been draws and were a matter of a fine line between winning and drawing. However, under Jose Mourinho (and I don't want to sound like I'm reflecting too much in hindsight and pining for him, which I probably am haha) we would most likely have won five out of seven games, or something similar. Whilst Mourinho's mentality was not always perfect, his tactics usually allowed us to shore up the game and seal the result by a slim margin if necessary to win games and help go towards a title challenge. If only John Terry had have been there yesterday, we might have seen better defensive organisation against a team (who despite having one of the meanest defences in the league, conceding only 14 goals in 20 games) who have one of the poorest attacks in the division, with only 20 goals scored I think. Now, Terry may not have saved the day, but I think he would have provided better defending generally.

Now although Scolari has provided us with great entertainment at times this year, I'm starting to wonder if we need to go back to those old mentalities. But, I know, it sounds like I'm one of those who complains when we win without playing well and don't win when we do play well. I think I'd always rather us win without playing well, just so we can prove we have the strength of character. The problem is that at the moment, we are conceding goals from nowhere, we have a lack of width (not helped by Deco's bizarre inclusion on the right, when he is an attacking central midfielder) and that our goal scoring ability seems to have diminished at the moment. The main point is, at 0-0 we need to learn to score that goal to give us that 1-0 win and at 2-1 we need to just hold out for the lead and close the game and the opposition, down.

The positives are that, we're still 2nd in the league and only three points behind Liverpool, Anelka is rejuvenated, Drogba is back, Terry will be back after Southend, we have a great away record, we still have 18 league matches left to win the league and that at times we have played great, entertaining football. There just needs to be a few changes made and then I think we will be more potent title challengers.

As for Liverpool, I'm quite shocked at how well they're doing and for once I'm starting to believe they could be genuine title challengers. They're top at Christmas for the first time in donkeys years and are winning either; well without their big players, or just winning well with them, or even winning by not playing well. Without Torres yesterday in their line-up, they dismantled Newcastle (although perhaps they're not the toughest opponents) and despite Gerrard proving the influential matchwinner he always is, there was no other great stand-out player in their line-up yesterday.

I hope they succumb to 3rd/4th place mediocrity come the end of the season and battle with Arsenal and Aston Villa - ultimately getting beaten by Villa to a Champions League spot. It would be like a Magnum to the head if Liverpool actually won the league, so let's hope it doesn't happen.

Cheers Stuart, I didn't notice that gramatical error you pointed out, it should indeed be 'a question of when, not if'.

Deco has been awful except for Pompey and Wigan back in August. He can't tackle to save his life, he seems to get bustled off the ball all too easily and he has a habit of messing up even the most simple of passes. I don't know why Scolari persists with playing him, he should be dropped for a while.

Liverpool did look pretty good yesterday, but some of Newcastle's defending was just comical - especially for Babel's goal. But I'll admit they do look like genuine challengers this season, I just think they'll slip away come March/April and it will come down to us and United vying for the league.

If they dont and they end up winning the league, I will not be a happy bunny. As you well know, they're not my favourite team in the world.

Dempsey Double Pegs Chelsea Back