• FT

    Fulham

    1

    Chelsea

    2

  • FT

    Arsenal

    2

    West Ham

    0

  • FT

    Man Utd

    1

    Birmingham

    0

  • FT

    Middlesboro

    0

    Everton

    2

  • FT

    Reading

    0

    Portsmouth

    2

  • FT

    Aston Villa

    2

    Tottenham

    1

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE

Craven Cottage, England

Referee: M Halsey | Attendance: 25357

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Fulham

  • Danny Murphy 10' PEN

1 - 2

FT

Chelsea

  • Salomon Kalou 54'
  • Michael Ballack 62' PEN

Fulham 1-2 Chelsea: Ballack helps Blues fight back

New Fulham boss Roy Hodgson endured a losing start to his Cottagers reign as Chelsea overcame a lifeless first half to defeat their west London rivals 2-1.

Danny Murphy blasted Fulham ahead with a 10th minute penalty, a lead which deservedly remained intact until the interval.

But Chelsea clicked into gear after half-time with two goals in eight minutes keeping them snapping at the heels of the Barclays Premier League's top two.

Salomon Kalou nodded them level, before Michael Ballack landed the decisive blow with a disputed penalty awarded when Clint Dempsey tugged the German's shirt.

Fulham may have a new manager, but the same Achilles heel which had crippled Lawrie Sanchez's disastrous stint in charge continued to haunt Craven Cottage.

They have now dropped 22 points from winning positions - a shortcoming which has plunged them into the relegation zone - and they faded dramatically in the second half when Chelsea upped the tempo.

• Hodgson full of praise for players

Hodgson had told his players they would be given the chance to prove themselves ahead of his expected spending spree over the coming weeks.

But after this result the 60-year-old, who has reportedly been handed a £15million transfer kitty, will be more aware than ever that he must strengthen if the club is to escape the drop.

Fulham have beaten their neighbours just once since 1979, but this was a superb chance to improve that record, with Chelsea decimated by injury.

Avram Grant was missing the spine of his Blues team in Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba - among a host of others - but his near-reserve line-up still possessed too much class for the Cottagers.

The victory ensured Chelsea finished their festive schedule with seven points from three games - a fine return given their injury problems.

It had looked very different at the start, however, with just 90 seconds on the clock when Diomansy Kamara tested goalkeeper Hilario at the near post following a classy interchange from Paul Konchesky and Simon Davies.

Fulham continued their lively start, with Kamara and Danny Murphy seeing plenty of ball, but they were caught on the break in the sixth minute.

Joe Cole did the initial damage with a well-timed run that swept him past Moritz Volz and he expertly picked out Kalou, only for Antti Niemi to pluck the shot out of the air.

Chelsea created another great chance moments later, with Steven Davis running into a trio of Blue shirts and giving possession away.

Kalou emerged with the ball and threaded a clever pass to Shaun Wright-Phillips, who sprinted clear before directing a poor effort wide of the left post.

Fulham succeeded in the 10th minute where their local rivals had failed - with a bit of help from Cole.

Volz skipped around Wayne Bridge and into the box, only to have his ankle clipped by Cole - and referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot, with Murphy making no mistake.

A handball from Kalou saw the Ivorian forward break clean through, but Halsey had seen the infringement and Davies, who had been switched to left midfield, then blazed over.

Kalou wasted a reasonable chance following some poor defending, before Murphy curled a free-kick inches over the crossbar.

Fulham continued to look the more sprightly, but Chelsea's superior class evened the odds in an increasingly competitive match.

Davies stole the ball from Juliano Belletti but dithered too long after slipping into the area and the opportunity to extend Fulham's lead had gone.

The Cottagers' enthusiasm failed to wane, however, and Chelsea were coming under growing pressure, especially on the break with their lethargic midfield looking particularly vulnerable.

Grant replaced the anonymous Steve Sidwell with Mikel John Obi for the second half, reverting to the line-up that defeated Newcastle.

The Blues looked fired up as they tore into Fulham and felt aggrieved not to have won a penalty when Dejan Stefanovic handled Wright-Phillips' cross.

But they could not be denied in the 54th minute when Belletti whipped in a precision corner to Alex, who directed a header across the face of goal.

Kalou still had work to do, but leaping between Bocanegra and Davies he connected cleanly and Niemi had no chance.

Cole flashed a shot narrowly wide and Ballack was beaten to the ball by Stefanovic in the nick of time.

The German continued to be a menace to Fulham's defence and he was on target from the spot for Chelsea's second as the title chasers began to overwhelm their opponents.

Ballack broke into the box, but his shirt was tugged by Dempsey and Halsey, who was well placed, had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.

Substitute David Healy and Cole had half-chances, but it was Fulham who enjoyed the brighter moments of a nervy finish.

Their late dominance failed to pay off, however, as Chelsea held firm through four minutes of injury-time to thwart their London rivals.

  • Hodgson full of praise for players

    New Fulham boss Roy Hodgson refused to condemn his side to relegation from the Premier League after today's 2-1 defeat by Chelsea.

    The Cottagers' enthusiasm could not be faulted but they were outclassed when Chelsea, who were missing nine players due to injury and suspension, upped the tempo after half time.

    Hodgson faces an enormous challenge to save the club from slipping into the Coca-Cola Championship and is ready to invest during the transfer window.

    But he rejected suggestions the current squad is not good enough to escape relegation, although he admitted survival will not be achieved without hard work.

    He said: 'This is my first game and I though the attitude and desire of the players to give their best was very good.

    'You won't hear from me that the team is not good enough to stay up.

    'We know we have a lot of work to do and we know that work must begin on the training field.

    'Nothing I saw today changed anything. The scale of the task I had envisaged hasn't changed.

    'I didn't come here naively and wasn't appointed naively. As a result we must get on and do what needs to be done.

    'If there are players available in the transfer window that we think would make us better now and in the longer term then we would be interested.'

    Danny Murphy fired Fulham ahead with a 10th minute penalty awarded after Joe Cole had tripped Moritz Volz as he skipped into the box.

    Chelsea came alive after the interval with two goals in eight minutes, the first a Salomon Kalou header set up by Alex's astute nod across the face of goal.

    Michael Ballack struck the decisive blow with the game's second penalty after Clint Dempsey had tugged the German midfielder's shirt.

    Hodgson, who was appointed Lawrie Sanchez's successor on Friday, felt referee Mark Halsey's decision was harsh.

    He said: 'The penalty is obviously going to be the subject of discussion and if we'd had any luck then it wouldn't have been awarded.

    'These days we'll see it 100 times on replays and it will probably be a 50-50 split on it.'

    Hodgson said with a bit of luck Fulham would have got a point, adding: 'As it is we didn't and now we must carry on and hope some of the teams we play in the future won't be as strong as Chelsea.'

    Chelsea boss Avram Grant admitted he had read the riot act to his players at half time and was pleased with the response.

    He said: 'I was not happy with the first half. We needed to do what was necessary to win the game because in the first half we didn't play well.

    'Most of the time you can speak to the head of the players at half time. The job for a manager is to do the right thing.

    'When the players are too nervous the manager needs to be calm, when everyone is too calm the manager should not be calm.

    'At half time when you see the players are slipping, you need to wake them.

    'Today everything was wrong. We didn't press well or move the ball well. We lost many passes, but we still had two great chances to go ahead and then equalise.

    'But I was very happy with the second half. We played good intelligent football.

    'The players had more determination and played well. Everything was better at half time.'

  • Scoring Summary

    • Fulham
    • Chelsea
    Danny Murphy (pen 10')
    (54') Salomon Kalou
    (pen 62') Michael Ballack

    Match Stats

    • Fulham
    • Chelsea
    6(2) Shots (on goal) 13(5)
    7 Fouls 8
    4 Corner kicks 8
    0 Offsides 3
    43% Time of Possession 57%
    1 Yellow Cards 0
    0 Red Cards 0
    4 Saves 3

    Teams

    • Fulham
    • Chelsea
    Substitutes
    Substitutions
    Yellow Cards