Chelsea 2 Fulham 2: Volz outshines Ballack to sum up Chelsea demise

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The Independent Football

His famous fold-up bicycle is only part of Moritz Volz's environmentally-friendly credentials - he also walks to games at Craven Cottage - and he is by no means your average Premiership high-roller. And on Saturday, Fulham's humble German midfielder turned in a performance against his celebrated countryman Michael Ballack which came to symbolise Chelsea's many problems.

Ballack struts around the midfield with a haughty swagger that has so far delivered little; Volz is a full-back converted to a central midfielder without a cap to his name and a self-confessed obsession with the American actor David Hasselhoff. Yet it was Volz who showed the Germany captain what it takes to be a Premiership midfielder and, if the man Volz calls "The Hoff" had been watching, he would surely have concluded that Ballack was in serious need of rescue.

This is the current state of Chelsea. Defence all over the place, serious injuries and their two famous acquisitions malfunctioning. If Andrei Shevchenko was not having such a terrible time, then surely the criticism would be heaped high on the German. But Ballack is gradually learning that there will be no hiding place in Chelsea's midfield.

Shevchenko's discomfort is there to see with every poor touch, every ponderous run that goes nowhere, every time the substitutes' board goes up with his No7 on it. Ballack's shortcomings are more easily disguised but, for the discerning viewer on Saturday, it was plain that when Chelsea needed inspiration the only sources were Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba. Their German team-mate was hopelessly out of sorts.

Ballack has four goals this season, five if you include the free-kick against Everton that went in off Tim Howard, but he is simply not dominating matches. Certainly not as befits a 29-year-old veteran of two World Cups and four Bundesliga titles. He is suspended for tomorrow's game at Aston Villa.

Volz offered that old defence that Ballack needed time. "Any player Chelsea buy, the world is expected of him, and I think the game over here is very different to what he was used to all his career in the Bundesliga," he said. "I'm sure a new lifestyle and coming to a new country always takes time to settle in so I think those are some of the factors. People are very critical of him, but I still think for a new player coming into this league, he has already made an impact and he has scored some important goals for Chelsea, and I am sure he will score more goals."

Joining Chelsea, as Shevchenko will attest, buys you many things: a mansion in Surrey, for example, or any flash car you fancy. What it does not buy you is time. When Volz described his trip home to the World Cup finals in the summer, it showed the extent of Ballack's humbling. Volz was in Germany as a paying fan, Ballack was there as his national team's captain.

Aside from the Ballack problem, Chelsea's lack of decent central defenders, Shevchenko's form, Salomon Kalou's jittery confidence and the doubts that goalkeeper Henrique Hilario inspires, there was one other important element to Saturday's game. Fulham played well and Chris Coleman called it right. His team did not come to defend and they were rewarded.

"We were always coming here to put as much pressure on them as possible in the last third," Coleman said. "If you sit back, as we've found out before, they'll murder you and pick you off. The longer the game went on with one goal in it we fancied ourselves to get a point. We've tried to do the same thing and lost 4-0. I won't pretend to be a big star although it worked this time."

There would even be a case for playing Ballack at centre-half if John Terry's recovery from injury takes much longer, certainly it was Drogba rather than any of the back four who was most assertive defending corners. Even Claude Makelele looked jaded; Tomas Radzinski's dummy on 16 minutes threw him and Volz held off Geremi to score the first Fulham goal.

Lampard worked valiantly to get Chelsea moving again in the first half. His shot was going wide until it took a big deflection off Liam Rosenior for the equaliser, and it was Lampard who made Drogba's goal on the hour, chasing a loose ball and crossing on to the striker's head.

With six minutes left, all the faults in Chelsea's defence finally combined when the excellent Michael Brown crossed and, via Ballack, Brian McBride hit a shot that Hilario blocked and Carlos Bocanegra poked in. Mourinho had furiously protested the award of the free-kick that led to the goal and yet he did not even mention it after the match. Things must be bad.

Goals: Volz (16) 0-1; Rosenior (og, 35) 1-1; Drogba (62) 2-1; Bocanegra (84) 2-2.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Hilario; Geremi (Shevchenko, 57), Ferreira, Carvalho, A Cole; Makelele (Wright-Phillips, 86); Essien, Ballack, Lampard; Kalou (Bridge, 80), Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hedman (gk), Morais.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Christanval, Bocanegra, Queudrue; Routledge, Brown, Volz, Radzinski; McBride, John (Boa Morte, 80). Substitutes not used: Batista (gk), Runstrom, Zakuani, Omozusi.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Chelsea Ferreira. Fulham Queudrue.

Man of the match: Volz.

Attendance: 41,926.

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