Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has done nothing to warm himself to the already hostile crowd at Stamford Bridge as the European Champions failed to score once again under the guidance of the Spanish manager, this time against local rivals Fulham, in another 0-0 home draw.
The dejected figure of Fernando Torres summed up a torrid first half for both Chelsea and Fulham with neither side able to find a saving grace to take into the interval.
The visitors sat back, happy to concede possession, and plenty of it, to their hosts, who lackadaisically limped past the halfway line and into The Whites half before a stout defensive line held strong and deflected away any final ball, like the proverbial rubber to Chelsea’s glue.
Ramires and David Luis made their best attempts to find a way into the Brazil rugby squad as the pair both saw efforts form range balloon over the bar and into the Shed End, while Dimitar Berbatov could only steer his best effort of the half high behind Petr Cech’s goal after 18 minutes.
Chelsea looked to their key forwards of Oscar, Edin hazard and, of course, Torres to provide the spark, but none of the trio were able to test Fulham’s Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer to any extent.
El Nino did eventually find the target with an effort, much to the relief of all inside Stamford Bridge, but his dejected effort on the turn rolled softly into Schwarzer’s arms.
Fulham, too, found a half chance through the boot of Hugo Rodallega, but his strike from 20-yards, although powerful, provided nothing more then catching practice for the Chelsea interim captain.
The interval brought a renewed life into the previously reserved encounter.
Hazard and Oscar provided the fizz to Chelsea’s play, and were it not for the toe of Mahamadou Diarra or the heel of Aaron Hughes, the Belgian would have threaded the Brazilian through on goal twice inside the first 10 minutes of the half.
Fulham too, though, found space and opportunities in the Chelsea defense. A incorrect offside flag denied Berbatov a chance to face Cech one-on-one, while Riise’s scuffed strike, after being played through by the ancient Giorgos Karagounis, did nothing to hinder Cech, while his Bulgarian teammate questioned the decision not to find him free in the 18-yard box.
A bobbling effort from Karagounis was straight at Cech once again just after the hour mark, while David Luiz failed to guide his header into the far corner of the Fulham goal minutes later.
With Fulham defensively set up with their two holding midfielders of former Blue Steve Sidwell and second-half substitute Chris Baird, the Whites appeared set to weather the oncoming storm brought by the introduction of Juan Mata, who replaced Ryan Bertrand behind Torres. But not even he could add more than a burst of urgency to Chelsea’s play, as Fulham settled 10 men behind the ball.
Berbatov continued to lead the line for the visitors, and his touch and grace on the ball proved what a coup Martin Jol puled off in the summer. After being played through alone on the break, the towering wizard managed to stall the play enough to find Kerim Frei who in turn teed off Riise for a ferocious effort that brought the best out of Cech, saving down low to his right as the European Champions breathed a huge sigh of relief with 15 minutes to play.
The visitors played on the counter while Chelsea flung men forward. Mata, Oscar and Torres all saw efforts blocked, and when Torres did get around the back line, Hughes made sure the Spanish striker’s effort was cleared from danger of the line.
A late penalty shout for Fulham after Frei was upended was upended in the box was waived away by referee Anthony Taylor.
The stern defense of the visitors proved impenetrable as Chelsea's star-studded cast failed to find their way through the wall of white shirts, and as the final whistle blew and the boos rang out, Rafa Benitez was reminded that he is now in charge of a side that hasn't scored in two games, or won in five.
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