ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 02/15/2011

Hardly the passionate encounter we were hoping for with our local rivals. Another clean sheet at the Cottage, a sterling defensive display, but where was the sparkle?

An unsatisfactory result all round. Bit like a date with your sister. The end of Chelsea's title ambitions confirmed, another point in our pursuit of safety, but a big opportunity passed up to leap into 9th place, and all but banish our relegation fears. Awful game of football, dreadful penalty effort, and a rare chance to gloat over Chelsea till next season tossed away.

The big question, why did we suddenly go so flat? I had to do a quick name check of the numbers after 15 minutes to remind myself Dembele was on the park. We couldn't raise our game for the local derby, after a run of fine form, playing a settled side, and with Chelsea very much on the wobble? A strange night.

We looked heavy legged throughout, and Demspey's last minute penalty miss was all too predictable. Admirable though he's been this season, Clint plays on instinct and sheer bloody-minded guts. He goes hunting where the mud and bullets fly. Fulham's most trusted foot soldier. But he's no general. With Murphy the keeper may guess the direction - as Gomes did - but placement and power still ensures the ball hits the back of the net. Gera should have been directed to take the penalty, especially as he was fresh, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Clint won it initially so I guess had first refusal.

A win, however fantastic it would have been, was not merited from the timid display put in by the Whites. In fact, had Torres and co not been so woeful themselves around the box, we can count ourselves lucky to claim a point against the Champions. Rumours of a bug in the ranks only partially excuses the number of big players who did not turn up on the night for Hughes.

One felt sorry for AJ, who showed energy early on, but got completely isolated after half-time, especially when Duff went into his shell. Felt he was unlucky to be the first hauled off. Murphy was guilty on a number of occasions standing deep and laying the ball off straight to opponents feet while Schwarzer's kicking is becoming erratic. Set piece delivery also on the night very disappointing. Enough moaning from me, but hey, these ticket prices aint cheap!

Back four outstanding in protecting their goalkeeper, Torres, Anelka. Malouda, Drogba nullified by the heroic efforts of Hughes and Hangeland. Even more admirable when you hear Brede was playing with a temperature. Sidwell is still to have a bad game in the White shirt. As the game began to run away from us seeing him in the mix is always reassuring. Considering how hard we were working to close Chelsea off, I would have had Gera and Eidur on much earlier - and certainly ahead of Davies. Here were two energetic players of stature who might have sparked something - yet Hughes only gives them 10 minutes.

Maybe I'm being over-critical, still raw at that penalty miss. Torres alone cost more than the whole Fulham squad so we must all accept a point here is a fine result for Fulham FC. I just wish it could have been that little bit more. But that's how I felt in 1975, 1983 and 2010. It's what fans of Fulham FC are conditioned to.

Over to you dear readers for your mood and hopes for the run in. We'll be raising spirits later in the week as we get ourselves up for the Cup on Sunday. Whoever we face, let's make it a winning weekend - and hope our opponents arrive feeling tired! One thing remains constant from last night, you won't get many chances to score at Craven Cottage.

COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil

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Posted by zonth on 02/15/2011

Geez, the last 30-40 minutes of the match were hard to watch. The old adage of hunkerning down, parking the bus, packing the mixer is so Painfull to watch. I found myself yelling at the TV, "Make the easy Pass!. Just keep possesion!"
But is seemed self inflicted. I counted numerous turnovers from Sidwell, Murphy, Hangeland.
Finally, I questioned clint's blast down the middle of the goal. some will get away with it, But I always prefer placement. Although Czech did look like a monster when lining up the spot.
Just hope it doesnt crack Clint's confidence. He has had a good go this season so far.
3 points would have been something. Salcedo had a good game.

Posted by zonth on 02/15/2011

Oh yea, and perhaps Eidur could have been inserted a bit earlier. I think his capacity for holding the ball up and keeping possesion would have lessened the pain of all the boneheaded turnovers.

Posted by Tom the Yank on 02/15/2011

I'm feeling a bit better, today, after being absolutely deflated, yesterday. It was all too predictable that Clint, who earned the penalty and who has directly helped to earn us almost half our points, this season, was going to miss or have his penalty saved. For that reason and the fact that this is likely Gera's last season at Fulham, I would have preferred to see him take it. But, how do you overrule the leading scorer and player that earned the penalty, unless Murphy's on the pitch?

The three points were there for the taking but, to be fair, on a different day, Chelsea would have been up 2-0 by the 2nd half, had their finishing been up to snuff.

Positives - another clean sheet at Fortress CC and a deeper squad that can offer quality players like Gera, Davies, Kakuta and Gudjonsson, off the bench.
Sidwell has slotted right in and is an upgrade on Etuhu.
We are going to be a difficult side to beat, even for the Top 6, unless we have an off day.

Fulham for the Cup!

Posted by Brandon on 02/15/2011

I have been reading all over and the consensus from people is that the Fulham starting 11 are to blame for the poor performance. I may be wrong but my gut says Hughes is to blame. There was no high pressure at all. When a Fulham player won the ball in our own half, the midfield seemed very hesitant to move forward into space. I yelled many times at the tv, "move into space, give him a lane!" Instead high pressure from Chelsea and a lack of a decent short to medium range option lead to a giveaway.

Compared to recent performances where we pressured high and attacked aggressively, I don't see why we would have started and played the entire match this way, unless instructed to. Its one thing when a team pushes you back, another when you start and finish that way. Even AJ was inside the 20 defending on some set pieces. Sometimes it makes sense to bring in a forward to win headers on defense but not AJ! And I was asking myself, who is going to receive the outlet when we win it back?

Posted by Bestchasnykh on 02/15/2011

Phil, you couldn't be more right. Hughes doesn't understand what he has in Zoltan, and it's hurt us both when EJ and Kamara were playing ahead of him and again last night, when he should've had more minutes. Duff and Dembele were nowhere to be seen after halftime.

The final ten minutes were evidence that Dempsey is better up top, too. It's where he's scored most of his goals, and he didn't have much impact on the wing. Maybe switch him and Moussa?

Posted by BillNRoc on 02/15/2011

Was this the same squad that ran Spurs ragged in the Cup tie? The names on the uniforms were the same, the faces looked the same, but the quality was missing. It seemed like Roy was managing, not watching from the seats. All three subs brought energy and ideas not previously seen in the 2nd half -- too bad they came on so late. Only Hangeland, Hughes and Sidwell distinguished themselves (in a positive way) for the full 90 minutes.

Posted by Tonsils20 on 02/15/2011

While it was nice to see our defending do enough to keep Chelsea off-balance, it was very disappointing to see the finishing ability come up lacking once again. Thankfully, Chelsea looked not ready for the match themselves. Many players were running in quicksand and I so hoped for Gudjohnson or even Gera to take the penalty to sneak away with an extra two points...Hughes is doing okay, and it's nice to see some depth in the team. Will be much better when our only real target man, Zamora, returns...assuming Murphy's set pieces stop going right to the 'keeper =) Rough game to watch, but good enough result, I guess, as the schedule winds down.

Posted by Woz on 02/15/2011

Great points made by all who have posted above. I'd like to add one. As of late, one thing that I feel is glaring is how few of the balls launched forward by the keeper or back four are knocked down and controlled by our front men. In the past with McBride and then Zamora, we have had a target that can knock down balls for the midfield to develop scoring chances, and give the defenders a breather. Last night those forward launches were predominantly won by the Blues (as was also the case against Liverpool and Villa), who then embarked on more pressure on our defenders. Of late it seems that we rely too much on midfield tackling to create a counter strike.
For that reason alone, Zamora's presence is needed, even if his strike capability is a little rusty from his injury.
Still the side looks miles ahead of the pre X-mas version, and optimism abounds here!

Posted by Dan on 02/15/2011

Phil, having a pop at Clint Dempsey? Please behave! Our player of the season, I think most supporters would agree. He scored his last penalty so we won and took it. He should of took it because Danny wasn't on the field. When it gets tough he has put his head in more than once. Scored countless headed goals and had more black eyes than Frank Bruno. Furthermore when Johnson, Dembele and Zamora haven't been about he has more than chipped and put his body in where it hurts. Without his goals we would be in massive trouble.

Posted by Perry on 02/16/2011

I agree that Dempsey was the wrong choice to take the penalty. But only because he had obviously run the legs out from under himself at that point. He was running on fumes when he drew that penalty, at it was clear to see. But you can hardly fault him from wanting to take it, or for not converting. He was the only reason the opportunity was there to begin with. Unfortunate, but he's still the player of the year.

Posted by lynch on 02/16/2011

I'm definitely not as gloomy as most after watching the game. I'll absolutely take the point.

obviously its never fun to watch us sit back but chelsea were poised for a big game. they needed it much more than we did, especially coming off a loss to 'pool. So we locked up for 90 minutes and kept them out of the net. I've never seen so many last second tackles and lunges in my life. The boys were completely exhausted, yes, but for good reason - they busted their asses.

Also I loved to see Eidur out there. He was all smiles, you could tell he was just happy to be playing in a big game again, and i thought he did very well. another astute hughes signing.

corners and set pieces were atrocious right to cech all game...

finally: david luiz was brilliant. chelsea have a star on their hands, and without him winning every ball all game, i think we have 6 more legit chances and at least 1 goal. he countered our ability to counter..

a salty finish in the end. but a good point.

Posted by Michael in Calgary on 02/16/2011

Oh, those lost two points!
Without Clint during the rough patches earlier this season, things would be much more dire, I'm sure.
But, oh, those lost two points!
There's a world of difference between being 6 points clear of the drop and breathing fairly comfortably and being just 4 points clear and still having a bit of concern.
The KEY stretch now will be the three games after Man City--home to Blackburn, away to Everton, home to Blackpool. A minimum of 6, preferably 7 points from that stretch should make the run-in comfortable.

Posted by Kyle on 02/16/2011

"Fulham's most trusted foot soldier. But he's no general."

Best description I've ever heard of Dempsey. Cannot fathom why he tried the subsequent bicycle. Probably saw too much of the Man U/Man city highlights.

Posted by Bobert on 02/18/2011

Wow really guys? The man misses one PK and everyone attacks him? Actually to be honest, I agree with everything Phil said. I believe that's a fair assessment, and being a Dempsey fan, I don't see anything in Phil's statements that are attacking Dempsey.

Well, I lied, I agree with everything except for the statement, "he's no general." I honestly believe talent wise, dribbling wise, sheer instinct wise, shot wise, and creativity wise, Dempsey and Demebele are the two most talented players on Fulham's squad. It's because of the fact that Dempsey takes risks where we get spectacular goals such as the infamous chip against Juventus, or the long range shot against Stoke. You can hardly blame him for going for the rebound.

Lastly, look at the replay leading up to where Luis draws the penalty on Dempsey. It's literally Dempsey and 5 Chelsea players around him. Not a single Fulham player is up there. And yet Dempsey still manages to create a play out of nothing. Demps def deserves slack.

Posted by Sean on 02/19/2011


You are most right. If Clint doesnt pull his best Wayne Rooney impression Eidur G. Heads that ball homoe with Cech having gone the other way.

End of... 3pts. But as Bobert it was one white shirt and a bunch of blue, thus he took the PK.


Posted by Tom on 02/22/2011

I love of all of the criticism of Dempsey following the draw with Chelsea; misguided as it might be. I think it illustrates how much Fulham fans expect of him. And they should no one has been as reliably dangerous for Fulham this season. Obviously the kick was not well placed and Clint should have done better; but without his efforts Fulham would not have had a sniff at 3 points against Chelsea. And second guessing his attempt to finish the rebound is ridiculous. If he didn't hear anyone calling him off, then he did the best he could and it didn't work out. Thats football.

I think Dempsey's efforts this season have been outstanding and have given the fans the ability to be disappointed with a missed oppotunity against Chelsea.

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