Chelsea 1-1 Fulham

Fulham's Danny Murphy celebrates with goalscorer Clint Dempsey at Chelsea
Clint Dempsey (right) enjoys his leveller with Danny Murphy at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea's fading Premier League title hopes suffered a huge blow as Fulham hit back to earn a battling draw in a lacklustre west London derby.

Juan Mata put the hosts ahead after the break, cracking home a fine first-time shot from the edge of the box.

Fulham levelled when Bryan Ruiz easily beat Ashley Cole and found Clint Dempsey, who netted from close range.

Chelsea dominated possession and created a host of chances late in the game, but the visitors held on.

Raul Meireles and substitutes Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda each had two chances to secure maximum points after Dempsey's 56th-minute strike as the Blues laid siege to the Fulham goal.

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Emotionless derby 'disappoints' Villas-Boas

However, Chelsea's late dominance was in stark contrast to a desperate first-half display which lacked urgency, quality and conviction.

Despite being pinned back in their own half for most of the final half-hour, Fulham were good value for a draw which leaves Chelsea 11 points below Premier League leaders Manchester City and Manchester United following the Boxing Day fixtures.

Misfiring £50m striker Fernando Torres, making his first Chelsea start in two months, once again failed to impress with another hit-and-miss display.

The Spaniard volleyed straight at goalkeeper David Stockdale after showing immaculate chest control from Mata's exquisite pass before the interval, and had a decent shout for a penalty ignored after the break.

But Torres continues to look a shadow of the player so often hailed as the best forward in the world during his Liverpool days.

The Cottagers frustrated Chelsea with a disciplined defensive display, and a line-up full of attacking talent broke with purpose to create as many decent chances as their hosts before the break.

Dempsey forced a fine save from Petr Cech with an awkward effort that bounced in front of the goalkeeper, and Moussa Dembele and Orlando Sa, who played up front on his own, also had efforts on goal.

At the other end Daniel Sturridge sliced a shot wide after being teed up by Torres, but Chelsea only sparked into life after half-time.

They went ahead when Mata found the corner of Stockdale's goal from 18 yards after Torres held the ball up.

Any hopes that it would be lay the platform for a much-needed convincing home win soon vanished when Ruiz did brilliantly to deceive Cole and Dempsey got in front of David Luiz to turn the ball home from close range.

At that point Andre Villas-Boas's side finally began to play with greater belief.

Sturridge saw a decent curling strike flicked over by Stockdale, and Malouda, on for the ineffective Frank Lampard, was unlucky not to score with a cheeky close-range backheel from John Terry's header.

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Jol buoyed by Chelsea draw

Torres also had a shout for a penalty ignored as he tumbled on the edge of the area and Drogba shot straight at Stockdale from a tight angle.

Meireles then shot narrowly wide after a wonderful turn and had a header tipped over by the impressive Stockdale.

Drogba also had a free-kick tipped over in the closing seconds as Chelsea looked to avoid a damaging third consecutive 1-1 draw.

But Fulham were able to withstand the onslaught and earn the point they so craved following last week's home mauling by Manchester United.

Chelsea manager Andre Vilas-Boas:

"The performance was good. We tried everything in our power to get a second goal. Stockdale had a fantastic day and prevented us getting a second goal and it is disappointing.

"Fulham were very well organised in the first half. They were solid and compact and made things difficult for us.

"The first half was a little one-paced from both teams. It was not fuelled by emotions. There was still time in the second half but we couldn't find the momentum after we scored. We found it again after they scored but it was too late."

Fulham manager Martin Jol:

"Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora couldn't play so we had to do it a bit differently today. We played with two on the flanks and two offensive midfield players and we caused them a problem in the first half.

"We played as a team and tried to keep the ball and did ever so well.

"They scored and it was a big blow but we came back with extra quality. There was an urgency, we scored and that that gave us a big boost.

"Maybe at the end we tried to overplay and that could have cost us but it didn't and I think we deserved a point."

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