Blues close in on title
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: 23/04/05 2:35pm
Chelsea took one more giant leap towards the title - with Frank Lampard scoring another crucial goal as The Blues beat neighbours Fulham 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
For a while it looked possible that Fulham would force their West London rivals to put the champagne back on ice - with Joe Cole's early stunner cancelled out late in the first half by Collins John.
But second half substitute Arjen Robben signalled his return with a fine nutmeg and cut-back that allowed Lampard to lash home, and Eidur Gudjohnsen scored late on to wrap up a win that puts Chelsea within one victory of sealing the Premiership title.
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For 20 minutes Fulham nullified the Chelsea attacking might although a fine run by Gudjohnsen made it clear that any one of their talented stars could step up a gear.
The breakthrough came when Claude Makelele's raking pass eventually came to Moritz Volz's whose poor touch presented the ball for Didier Drogba.
Drogba picked out Cole, but the young England international did simply superbly to earn himself a yard on Alain Goma and unleash an unstoppable drive that curled just inside Edwin van der Sar's left hand post.
Chelsea threatened to extend their lead when Drogba's shot on the turn crept narrowly wide, and the Ivorian felt he should have had a penalty when Volz bundled him over as a Lampard cut-back looked set to reach him.
Fulham looked capable of producing something on the break, and they served up a timely reminder of this when the ever impressive Luis Boa Morte put Liam Rosenior through and his cut-back was blazed over by Brian McBride.
Drogba and Gudjohnsen were both guilty of needless offsides, and it was Fulham who finally added to the score - when Boa Morte's ball left Ricardo Carvalho floundering.
The Portuguese was outpaced, and out-powered by John, who eased himself past the Chelsea defender and slotted home from a tight angle with all the consummate ease of a born goalscorer.
An injury forced Cole off at half time and allowed Jose Mourinho to bring Robben back into the side.
The Dutchman nearly had an immediate impact slipping at the crucial moment and finding Gudjohnsen in an offside position when he recovered.
Robben then, somewhat selfishly in truth, fired a low shot wide, and van der Sar showed his ability with a fine tackle to deny Glen Johnson.
But The Blues are made of sterner stuff these days, and in Lampard they have a player that has the uncanny knack of arriving in the right place at the right time to score important goals.
Robben and Damien Duff, inevitably, were the architects - the former playing in the latter who nutmegged Volz and laid the ball back for Lampard to slot home and ease nerves.
Fulham, to their credit, rallied and attempted to force their way back into the game, but even as Mourinho started to change things round - mindful of the midweek UEFA Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, it seemed highly unlikely that Fulham could find a second equaliser.
Tomasz Radzinski brought a tip over from Petr Cech, but it was a rare moment of threat for the composed Chelsea stars - who should have had a penalty when Goma clumsily brought down Tiago.
This was forgotten soon after as Gudjohnsen made Fulham pay for pushing forward - powering through, and slotting home to cue celebrations from the delighted home fans.
Cech has been a vital cog in Mourinho's success and he made a great save late on that had the crowd on their feet once more, bringing more chants predicting glory and no doubt setting the engravers sharpening their tools in readiness of adding Chelsea's name to the Premiership trophy.
Chelsea v Fulham player ratings.
|6||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||3|
|5||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6|
|8||Total Fouls Conceded||13|
|58 %||Possession||42 %|
Barclays Premier League
|9||West Ham United||35||47|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||35||40|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||35||27|