Chelsea warm-up for Barcelona with derby win

Chelsea 3 Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

Chelsea warmed up for their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona next week with a comfortable win over west London neighbours Fulham.

Goals from Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba ensured Chelsea also kept the heat on second-placed Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League.

Guus Hiddink's side dented Fulham's own hopes of European football next season as West Ham and Manchester City both moved above the Cottagers in the race for seventh place.

The contest began in dramatic fashion with three goals inside the first 10 minutes.

The Blues opened the scoring inside 50 seconds.

Malouda and Anelka combined down the left before Malouda's cross was stabbed into the path of Anelka by Drogba.

The France international finished from the edge of the six-yard box.

But Fulham hit back immediately and were level in the fifth minute.

Norwegian striker Erik Nevland scored his second goal in as many games when he ran on to a great pass by Danny Murphy to beat Petr Cech with a fierce angled drive.

Two minutes later Frank Lampard was narrowly wide with a clever chip shot as Chelsea looked to restore their advantage.

But the home side were back in front in the 10th minute when Anelka fed Drogba inside the penalty area and his low cross was lashed into the net by Florent Malouda.

But Fulham were still dangerous on the counter and Nevland smashed an 18-yard volley just over the bar in the 14th minute.

Moments later a cross from Paul Konchesky found the head of Bobby Zamora but the Fulham striker's effort was just wide of Cech's right-hand upright.

Chelsea's Drogba then had a goal ruled out for offside but TV replays clearly showed that the Ivorian was onside and the goal should have counted.

Drogba felt he should have earned a penalty in the 29th minute when he went down in the area under a challenge from Konchesky. But referee Alan Wiley rejected Chelsea's appeals.

But moments later Drogba was fouled by John Pantsil only for Lampard to send the free-kick into the second tier of the Shed end.

Fulham were dealt another blow to their attack in the 35th minute when goalscorer Nevland succumbed to a knock on his knee and was replaced by Diomansy Kamara.

But Kamara proved to be full of running and won the ball off John Terry before supplying Zoltan Gera via Pantsil.

Gera's ferocious effort was deflected for a corner by Terry, who threw his body into the path of the ball at the last minute.

Aaron Hughes saved Fulham from falling further behind seconds later when he half-blocked a shot from Lampard which then grazed the outside of the post.

Chelsea made two changes at half-time with Michael Ballack replacing Michael Essien in midfield and Branislav Ivanovic coming on for Alex in the centre of defence.

Chelsea made it 3-1 in the 53rd minute with a superb counter-attack that was finished by Drogba.

Anelka broke clear on the right flank and slipped a perfect ball into the path of the Ivorian who took one touch before slotting the ball beyond the advancing Mark Schwarzer.

Chelsea were given an injury scare in the 55th minute when Drogba collided awkwardly with Pantsil on the edge of the Fulham penalty area.

Drogba was eventually declared fit enough to carry on and play had ended when Malouda was fouled on the edge of the penalty box.

Lampard's free-kick was tipped over the crossbar by Schwarzer and Drogba was given a rousing reception as he returned to the fray.

Fulham had now lost their shape completely and Chelsea were able to break out at will.

Drogba almost made it four in the 68th minute but he could only turn Anelka's right-wing cross wide of the near post.

Chelsea continued to dominate and Ballack went close with a close-range header that finished on top of the net.

In the 88th minute Mikel was just wide with a 25-yard rising drive but Chelsea had done enough to run out comfortable winners.