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Chelsea FC 0-0 Fulham: Reaction

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LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea waves during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on February 6 2011 in London England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Fernando Torres of Chelsea waves during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on February 6 2011 in London England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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I think the only thing that could have possibly explained this match is a some sort of magical hex - on both goals. Chelsea dominated possession but had the composure of six year-olds in front of goal (not to mention the first touch of rocks), and Fulham missed a very very late penalty which would have given them all three points. This was a match where Chelsea thoroughly outplayed the opposition without ever actually playing very well themselves, but they should have had the win regardless. Twice Fernando Torres wasted easy chances to score. Twice Didier Drogba crosses beat the defence but failed to find a blue shirt. Michael Essien contrived to head wide from two yards out and unmarked. A host of other half-chances went nowhere.

Ultimately, Chelsea paid the price for not firing on all cylinders, although it could have been worse if not for the heroics of Petr Cech in saving that last gasp penalty. But if any of the early chances had found the goal, I suspect you'd have seen a different game entirely. Many might want to blame this on a lack of commitment or effort, but the with amount of pressure the players are under I just don't see it. Torres, if anything, was trying too hard, and Michael Essien's fury at missing his late chance should give us a hint that he would indeed rather have scored.

Of course, Torres should have scored and so too should Essien, but I don't really see the point of dwelling on it. Chelsea have plenty of excellent players and most of them didn't do very well at all. That's really a problem for Carlo Ancelotti to figure out, but turning this game into a bizarre analysis of the team's psyche is annoying and pointless. We could have played better, but we generated a host of chances and it's only a matter of luck that they weren't converted. The goals will come. Daniel Sturridge is not a better striker than Anelka, Torres, or Drogba.

However, that's not really good enough in terms of a result - we're now adrift of Tottenham in 5th place and we simply can't afford to keep dropping points like this. We've wasted dominant displays against several opponents now, and that's the reason we're totally out of the title race. At some point things have to start breaking right once again. I don't know how that'll happen, because it really seems to be more of the universe being actively malicious towards Chelsea than anything you can actually blame someone for, but this is simply not working. Drogba and Torres in a 4-4-2? Sure, why not? Didn't work against Liverpool, but the 4-3-3 sure didn't look like working today either.

Anyway, onto the good.

Chelsea have a pair of 23 year-old Brazilians on their squad now, and both were brilliant today. Ramires worked hard in midfield and combined well with Branislav Ivanovic on the right, as well as sending in a couple of shots, but David Luiz was absolutely magnificent in his debut, playing like a modern-day Franz Beckenbauer. Yes, he did give up the late penalty, but even if you hold that against him he was a tower of strength in defence, Chelsea's best passer, able to move the ball forward, play on both flanks, and nearly set Salomon Kalou up with a goal after he crossed the ball with a bicycle kick. Sideshow Jesus looked like the best player on the pitch by a fair margin today, and well worth the £23M spent on him. Is he wasted as a centre back?

The defence looked stronger than it has done in some time as well, partially thanks to Luiz, but Ivanovic had a very solid game at right back in his 100th Chelsea appearance and John Terry and Ashley Cole were hardly troubled on the left. Fulham had a few chances towards the end (penalty aside), but I think the defence as a unit should be very pleased with how it handled itself.

I also thought Carlo did fairly well, given what he had to deal with. He experimented with different formations (Chelsea at one point were tinkering with a 3-5-2), did his best to shake up the game, and ultimately just couldn't get anything started. Maybe he should have made another substitution, adding John Obi Mikel to free Essien for forward runs, or using Josh McEachran to inspire a little more creativity, but a manager can hardly be blamed for his team missing so many gilt-edged opportunities.

I'd be a lot more distressed about the match had those chances never presented themselves. Fulham defended like lions and Chelsea still should have scored as many as three goals. The result sucks, the performance was blargh, but there's some encouragement to be gleaned from it anyway. Maybe in six year's time we'll remember this match as the time England was introduced to David Luiz, though. The weird curse on the goals wasn't the only wizardry going on at Craven Cottag. That boy is something special.