Luiz Felipe Scolari walked off the pitch at Craven Cottage yesterday wagging a finger in the face of his goalkeeper Petr Cech and demanding to know how his team had thrown away victory in the last minute. Chelsea's carelessness is proving expensive in the title race and Scolari admitted that he wanted an explanation from his goalkeeper as to why Clint Dempsey was allowed to head in from a corner in stoppage time.
It was Dempsey's second goal of the game and the second that was gifted by chaos in the defence of Scolari's team who failed to put anyone on the line as Simon Davies' corner came over. "I asked Petr about the positions for marking players," Scolari said. "He's the captain for marking in this area. I give him the power to say what he wants in that area. There was one player free in the middle of the area. In the last minute. That's incredible."
Even more incredible was how Chelsea conspired to lose this game after dominating a match in which two goals from Frank Lampard (right) gave them the lead until the last minute. Dempsey had put Fulham ahead but Lampard almost carried Chelsea over the line on his own. This was the England midfielder at his very best, making tackles, initiating moves, scoring goals and, probably if they asked him, driving the team bus home as well. If only his team-mates had risen to the challenge.
After an error by John Obi Mikel, who was defending a Davies' free-kick, allowed Dempsey to score in the 10th minute, Scolari said that he took his side to task at half-time for their sloppiness.
"Every player knows who to mark when we start a game," Scolari said. "It's my job now to ask what happened in this situation. I'm not telling you who was supposed to mark him [Dempsey]. We spoke at half-time, who was supposed to be marking who and who was supposed to be covering. After every goal, we try to make sure that doesn't happen again. But, at the corner, we made another mistake."
The mistake means that as Liverpool tore apart Newcastle, Chelsea could only manage a single point – their third draw in their last four league matches. They are only three points behind the leaders Liverpool but they are struggling to generate much momentum and the seeds of discontent among the supporters are evident. Some of them sang: "You don't know what you're doing", when Scolari substituted Joe Cole for Salomon Kalou, although Chelsea's second goal came soon after.
In Florent Malouda and Alex da Costa, Scolari can be fairly certain that he does not have a couple of bravehearts capable of dragging his side through the tough winter months. Malouda substituted himself on 30 minutes, walking around the pitch and down the tunnel complaining of a hamstring problem. Alex also came off before half-time. He was replaced by the excellent Ricardo Carvalho whose first appearance since 29 October was a source of comfort for Chelsea.
With the suspended John Terry in the stands, it fell upon Lampard to do the hard work, barracked, as he was throughout by the Fulham fans, for being a "fat bastard". For a "fat bastard" Lampard really gets about the pitch well.
There was a wonderful moment during a lull in play when, as the level of abuse rose, Lampard smiled at the home fans, puffed out his cheeks and stuck out his belly. The Fulham fans with a sense of humour applauded, although incredibly there were some halfwits who, having dished it out, then took offence.
Scolari dropped Nicolas Anelka and Michael Ballack to the bench, then brought on Anelka for Malouda, and his team dominated most of the game. They simply could not finish Fulham off. Mark Schwarzer stopped shots from Lampard, Anelka and Joe Cole although he was at fault for the Chelsea equaliser. The goalkeeper collided with Aaron Hughes and when the ball dropped loose it was Lampard who finished.
Dempsey had given Fulham the lead when he chested down Davies' free-kick and flicked it in from close range. On 50 minutes, having equalised, Lampard then gave Chelsea the lead with a free-kick that went through the Fulham wall after Carvalho broke away from the knot of defenders to create space. Dempsey's late second goal was a well-placed header from Davies' corner and Chelsea did not have a man guarding the post.
Lampard looked as if he might score the winner at the end with a shot that the Chelsea man seemed to claim was stopped by a Fulham hand. Was that why Scolari confronted the referee Andre Marriner before he turned his attention to Cech? "No, I was telling him he was the best referee we've had," said Scolari. "Really, I was. This referee and linesmen, if they made a mistake it was one mistake, maximum."
On the first anniversary of Roy Hodgson taking over at Fulham it was fitting that his team gave him the performance he deserved. Hodgson has been a revelation at the club, who reach halfway in the season in eighth position. As for Scolari, the jury is still out especially for the Chelsea fans who booed him yesterday.
Goals: Dempsey (10) 1-0; Lampard (50) 1-1; Lampard (72) 1-2; Dempsey (90) 2-2. Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Paintsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Dempsey, Murphy (Baird, 90), Etuhu (Andreason, 78), Davies; Zamora (Nevland, 78), Johnson. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Gray, Stoor, Kallio. Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Alex (Carvalho, 37), A Cole; Mikel; J Cole (Kalou, 72), Deco, Lampard, Malouda (Anelka, 30); Drogba. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Ballack, Ferreira, Belletti. Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands). Booked: Chelsea Drogba, Bosingwa. Man of the match: Lampard. Attendance: 25,462.Reuse content