Clint Dempsey equaliser for Fulham piles more pressure on Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea

Fulham 1 Chelsea 1: Blues slip means race for fourth place hots up

Craven Cottage

They might have reached the Champions League semi-finals this month but with every mistake, and every point thrown away, Chelsea edge towards the catastrophe of failing to qualify for the competition next season.

Last night it was Clint Dempsey who scored the goal, eight minutes from time, that denied Chelsea two precious points and left them in sixth place with five matches of the season left. This was a chance to make up three points on Tottenham, but instead they go into the final furlong two points behind their old London rivals and Newcastle United, too.

Not since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 have Chelsea been out of the Champions League places at this stage of the season. And lest it be forgotten, it was the 2003 final between Milan and Juventus that inspired Abramovich to buy a football club. The modern Chelsea are not supposed to be, in the eyes of their owner, a Europa League team.

Roberto Di Matteo bemoaned his team's inability to finish off Fulham with a goal in the second half to add to Frank Lampard's penalty just before the break. But increasingly it is their tendency to concede goals late in games that is proving their undoing. Wigan equalised late on Saturday and Chelsea still rescued the win but when Dempsey headed in Fulham's goal on 82 minutes last night there was to be no comeback.

 

The run-in for Chelsea includes games against Arsenal and Newcastle, both teams who could potentially finish above them this season. Starting on Sunday they play Spurs, in the FA Cup semi-final; Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg three days later and then Arsenal on the following Saturday. If things go badly, the whole season could be up in smoke by the end of it.

The chances are that Branislav Ivanovic will learn today that he faces a three-match ban imposed retrospectively by the Football Association for punching Sean Maloney on Saturday, adding to Di Matteo's problems. The Chelsea manager refused to discuss the Ivanovic issue last night although even he had to admit that the defending was a concern.

"In the second half we couldn't quite get the second goal, maybe didn't pose enough threat to kill the game off," Di Matteo said. "It's been a bit of a pattern, but we put a big effort in to win this game. The biggest disappointment is that we conceded an equaliser late on. It's been a pattern this season, conceding late goals. If you manage to get a second goal, it gives the opposition less hope. It's always shaky at 1-0.

"You couldn't have written off Newcastle. Arsenal have a little gap [to those behind them], for sure. But it's important for us, the fourth spot. I think it's going to go down to the last game. Again, you saw some unexpected results [yesterday]. It's football, a very competitive league. There are no easy games."

It was a dubious penalty award that helped Chelsea on their way in the first place. Salomon Kalou ran into the box down the inside left channel and went down when Danny Murphy lunged in with two feet. It later transpired that Mark Clattenburg, the referee, gave the penalty for what he regarded as a foul by Stephen Kelly as the three converged.

There was only the most minimal contact between Kalou and Kelly, which, as Fulham manager Martin Jol said, only made the penalty more "confusing". "We thought it was Murphy [the penalty was given against] but he touched the ball," Jol said. "With Kelly, I don't think he did it ... it was an accidental collision. I'm not sure if it's an English phrase, but he [Kalou] 'tripped himself'.

"The referee said it was Kelly and that made it a bit more confusing for us. I thought it might have been the tackle from Murphy, but you can see from the telly that the tackle was not on purpose."

The only bad news of the day for Fulham was confirmation that Bryan Ruiz has fractured a metatarsal and is out for the rest of the season. They are 11th on 42 points and only behind Sunderland on goal difference. Dempsey has 16 goals for the season now and along with Moussa Dembélé in central midfield was Fulham's outstanding performer.

In the rain and wind it was not a classic but there were moments of excellence from Kerim Frei, the young Swiss winger. Even after Fulham scored the equaliser they had attempts on goal from John Arne Riise and substitute Orlando Sa which might have won them the game.

Frei ran down the inside left channel on 26 minutes, cut in past John Terry and hit a low shot to Petr Cech's right which the goalkeeper palmed around the post. In that period Chelsea looked like they might struggle if Fulham could maintain the pressure but the home side lost their way somewhat and their opposition found a foothold in the game.

Chelsea's penalty came in the 44th minute of the match and was keenly contested by the Fulham players. It was the 150th Premier League goal of Lampard's career, stroked to Mark Schwarzer's right side. The goalkeeper guessed correctly but it was past him and in the net before he could get close. Lampard gets short shrift from the Fulham fans whenever he visits Craven Cottage which probably explained his exuberant celebrations in front of them.

There was considerable controversy over the award of the penalty to Chelsea, but they were aggrieved not to get another six minutes after half-time when Brede Hangeland appeared to push Lampard over when Bertrand's cross from the left came in.

Juan Mata had been left on the bench by Di Matteo who opted for Raul Meireles in that more creative role behind Fernando Torres. With 20 minutes left, Mata was brought into the game as Chelsea searched for the goal that would finish Fulham off, but it was the home side who made all the running.

Torres was assigned to mark Aaron Hughes at corners which very nearly resulted in a goal for Hughes with nine minutes left. Cech made another good save. From the corner Dempsey lost Terry, who was then blocked by the substitute Dickson Etuhu as he attempted to get back to his man. Dempsey's header brushed off Cahill's back and inside Cech's post. Fulham had scored the goal they deserved.

Remaining fixtures

Arsenal: Tomorrow Wolves (a); 16 April Wigan (h); 21 April Chelsea (h); 28April Stoke (a); 5 May Norwich (h); 13 May West Bromwich (a)

Tottenham: 21 April QPR (a); 29 April Blackburn (h); 2 May Bolton (a); 6 May Aston Villa (a); 13 May Fulham (h)

Newcastle: 21 April Stoke (h); 28 April Wigan (a); 2 May Chelsea (a); 6 May Manchester City (h); 13 May Everton (a)

Chelsea: 21 April Arsenal (a); 29April QPR (h); 2 May Newcastle (h); 5 May Liverpool (a); 13 May Blackburn (h)

 

Match facts

Fulham: SCHWARZER, KELLY, HUGHES, HANGELAND, RIISE, DUFF, DIARRA, MURPHY, DEMBELE, FREI, DEMPSEY,

Chelsea: CECH, BERTRAND, TERRY, CAHILL, IVANOVIC, MIKEL, LAMPARD, KALOU, MEIRELES, RAMIRES, TORRES

Scorers: Fulham: Dempsey 82. Chelsea: Lampard 45 pen

 

Substitutes: Fulham Murphy (Etuhu, 74), Sa (Diarra, 81), Kacaniklic (Frei, 88). Chelsea Mata ( Meireles, 70), Drogba (Ramires, 83).

Booked: Fulham Murphy. Chelsea Cahill, Mikel, Meireles. Man of the match Dembélé. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Fulham 49% Chelsea 51%.

Attempts on target: Fulham 9 Chelsea 4.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance 25,697.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam