Fulham add to Benitez woes

Mike Hewitt

A Hodgson-esque Fulham performance earns a point a Stamford Bridge

At least there was a side-story to this match because, without it, there was little else going on at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.

Rafa Benitez was the centrepiece, loathed by all. As much was reflected in the torpid stadium atmosphere and his second 0-0 draw will not have helped in the slightest.

The home end booed their team off at the final whistle while the Fulham fans upheld their chants of "Rafa Benitez, he works where he wants". It was quite clear who had the happier set of supporters.

And, as has become quite a regular feeling of late, Martin Jol believed his side could have even taken a full round of points rather than the more poultry and predictable one. He makes a fair assessment but for it to come into fruition, you have to create chances and there were none to share around in the first half.

Fulham had set up well, almost Hodsgon-esque. A bank of five midfielders retained possession superbly as Aaron Hughes and Phillipe Senderos showed that no matter how temporary a partnership, it can still work. The former was superb, anticipating every Chelsea move. The latter was surprisingly resilient and rarely disappointing.

Players had spoken bravely in the week about the necessity of an early goal but such optimism never spilled onto the field in the opening forty five and neither goalkeeper was tested.

David Luiz struck a free-kick well over the bar and Fernando Torres offered a characteristically tame shot, easily held by Mark Schwarzer.

The second period brought more intensity but it still took time to take effect. Dimitar Berbatov was harshly judged offside when through on goal before John Arne Riise wasted a glorious opportunity to stun the hosts. Chelsea had an air of control but Fulham looked somewhat more clinical.

Juan Mata was put on to add to Chelsea's influence while Jol responded with Chris Baird. On the face of it, Benitez was more eager for the points but it was Fulham that were taking ahold of the match.

Petr Cech did well to deny Riise after the Norwegian struck powerfully from the edge of the area and Kerim Frei, brought on to replace a solid Giorgios Karagounis, was lively.

Torres then found space at the other end, volleying well, only to be denied by an astutely-positioned Aaron Hughes, who booted the effort away.

Tempo raised and action at either end, some sort of atmosphere arose at the Bridge. Most of it was disdain at what was happening, though, and it could have easily gotten worse.

Frei raced upfield and, upon rounding two defenders, fell inside the penalty area. The referee was close and waved away appeals, but contact was present.

To their credit, the Blues spent the dying moments camped in the Fulham box but, and this a trait most unlike the Fulham of late, Jol's defence stood firm.

And so both teams continued their run of six without a win. But one of them, at least, remain happy in themselves.

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