Cech comes to Chelsea's rescue after tepid Torres draws a blank

Fulham 0 Chelsea 0

If part of Roman Abramovich's intention in spending £50m on Fernando Torres was for the striker to revitalise Chelsea's flagging defence of their Premier League title, then that part of the plan can now be said to have failed.

Chelsea have gained just one point from a possible six since Abramovich's decision to shatter the British transfer record to buy the Spanish striker, and instead of closing the gap on Manchester United, they have slipped further behind the leaders and currently languish 12 points behind.

Torres endured another blank night in Fulham, following his meagre debut in last week's defeat to former club Liverpool. Chelsea had goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank for not slipping to a second successive defeat, with a brilliant penalty save in stoppage time to deny Clint Dempsey.

Carlo Ancelotti bit the bullet and dropped Didier Drogba from the starting line-up, opting for a three-man forward line with Torres in the centre, and with Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda playing behind him in a Christmas tree formation. Ancelotti also brought in Ramires in midfield and gave a full debut to £25m defender David Luiz.

Chelsea dominated possession in the early stages, but struggled to make anything with it and it was Fulham who enjoyed the better early chances, with former Chelsea winger Damien Duff enjoying the chance to run at Ashley Cole.

Duff's low cross provided the first sniff of a chance for Andy Johnson, but Luiz was across swiftly to snuff out the danger. Duff then produced a surprise shot from distance that almost caught Chelsea goalkeeper Cech unawares.

Chelsea created very little, Frank Lampard and Malouda firing into the crowd at the Hammersmith End. Just before the half-time break Torres then wasted a couple of decent chances. He pounced on Ramires' clearing header, but after holding off Chris Baird he could not evade Aaron Hughes and fired a weak shot at Mark Schwarzer's body.

Then, in first-half stoppage time, he raced onto a raking ball from Luiz but his first touch with his left foot let him down, and Schwarzer smothered the danger, prompting the inevitable chants of "What a waste of money".

Chelsea increased the tempo after the interval but still laboured to create meaningful opportunities to score. Torres had a couple more half-chances, heading Ramires' cross over the bar, and then minutes later curling a shot over the bar.

That ended up being that from Torres, who was withdrawn in the 71st minute, replaced by Drogba. Malouda looked far more threatening when he received the ball. The Frenchman had Schwarzer scurrying across his goal with a thumping shot from distance that Fulham's Australian goalkeeper was relieved to see fly past his post.

Malouda also had a decent claim for a penalty when he was bundled to the ground by Brede Hangeland as the pair challenged for a ball from Ashley Cole but referee Mike Dean was not impressed.

While Torres again disappointed, the Chelsea support were cheered by the performance of Luiz, who was calm and composed in defence while also inventive and adventurous when breaking forward. One overhead cross he pulled off could only have been made in Brazil.

The former Benfica man however blotted his copy book by conceding a penalty for a needless trip on Clint Dempsey in the 93rd minute.

The American struck his spot-kick well but Cech dived to his right to keep the effort out, before a leaping Dempsey hit the rebound high and wide.

Fulham had other chances to continue their home winning streak, which had been extended to five games in all competitions before last night, but could not find a way past Cech.

Dempsey broke free of John Terry but Chelsea's imposing goalkeeper was alert enough to parry his fierce shot to safety.

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Dempsey, Sidwell, Murphy (Gera, 83), Duff; Dembele (Gudjohnsen, 83); Johnson (Davies, 74). Substitutes not used: Stockdale (gk), Kelly, Pantsil, Greening.

Booked Sidwell, Gera

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Essien, Lampard; Anelka (Kalou 65), Torres (Drogba, 71), Malouda. Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Ferreira, McEachran, Sala, Mikel.

Booked Ivanovic

Referee M Dean (Merseyside).

Attendance 25,685 Man of the Match Hughes

Match Rating 7/10



Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there