LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Frank Lampard of Chelsea is tackled by Mahamadou Diarra of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage on April 9, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
For at least thirty minutes last night it felt as if injustice would once again prove our undoing, just as it had done against Manchester United barely a month ago. When Clint Dempsey is about, however, there is a certain feeling that not much is beyond Fulham and a 1-0 deficit to a somewhat capricious Chelsea side definitely wasn't. The American put the two South West London sides back on level terms and, in truth, there could have even been more to celebrate.
Martin Jol's men were both efficient and classy on what was an unsettlingly soggy day at Craven Cottage but Chelsea, at times showing a glimpse of their former, Mourinho-guided selves, were always going to provide a stern test and victory was just one step too far. As captain Danny Murphy explained post-match, though, this was undoubtedly one of Fulham's finest displays of the season.
Kerim Frei was the notable Whites inclusion here but that was perhaps more down to the colour of his boots than his rather tender age. We've known for months that this Swiss Under-19's International is a talent well worth nurturing and the way in which he made Branislav Ivanovic, one of the Premier League's most astute right backs, look distinctly average and even, at times, indolent, was something to behold. His pink footwear caught the eye, yes, but his mastery with the ball was the real show here.
He was most exuberant in the early stages, running indefatigably on Chelsea's right hand side, often covered by an impressive John Arne Riise. Yet again, the Norwegian should have had a goal but his luck with finding the net seems to have averted him in SW6.
Chelsea had the better of the opening stages but it was palpable that defensive pair Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes were in no mood to let Torres, the Blues' only striker, past. Steven Kelly put in a reputable shift too and is becoming yet more competent as the weeks go by.
Once fifteen minutes had elapsed, though, the home side were in control of the game and the mixture of Riise and Frei on the left wing was proving fruitful for lone striker Dempsey. Twice Riise found him but both times he was denied by some good defensive work.
Frei then proved his demonstrable worth. If ever there is any doubt that Moussa Dembele may move on over the Summer period then perhaps there's a good case to be made for his replacement to be manufactured in the form of this 18 year old. Central midfielder, he isn't, but his glitzy run through the Chelsea half was both mesmerising and canny, showing an inherent talent that has seemingly progressed beyond his years. He finished the move with a fine effort on goal but it flew just past Petr Cech's post.
Then all the good work was undone. It was a confusing decision, most assuredly, but there were fair arguments to be made from both standpoints. Danny Murphy was aggrieved with the penalty call, though, and plenty can see why. In the end, Mark Clattenburg suggested that it was in fact Kelly that clipped Kalou in the box but there was no sign of intention. Frank Lampard took the spot kick well but the decision remains dubious.
As such, Fulham went into the break on the back foot and came out in much the same fashion. Again, Chelsea had control of the early proceedings but Jol's men found their feet soon after. Yet, dominating possession wasn't quite enough and the chances weren't flowing. A frustrating Dempsey strike from distance summed the feeling up.
The goal did come though and parity was restored. A first corner was met by the head of Aaron Hughes but his effort was saved in stunning fashion by an otherwise untested Cech. Di Matteo's side didn't re-organise efficiently enough, though, and on the second attempt, Dempsey connected and grabbed his 22nd goal of his long campaign. He celebrated in style and so did the home fans.
With momentum behind them, Fulham didn't sit back but nothing more was forthcoming. Yet again these two sides have drawn but few spectators from the Cottage would have been displeased. We're now level on points with Liverpool and, in many respects, a far happier unit.