Hodgson hails unlucky Smalling
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson refused to blame Chris Smalling after his own goal handed Chelsea a 2-1 win.
Last Updated: 28/12/09 6:41pm
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson refused to blame Chris Smalling after the defender marked his full Premier League debut with an own goal that handed Chelsea a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
The Premier League-leading Blues, who failed to impress, fell behind to Zoltan Gera's fourth minute opener but Didier Drogba equalised in the 73rd minute when heading in reported Real Madrid target Branislav Ivanovic's cross.
Smalling, 20, then had a moment of agony just 120 seconds later as a cross-shot from Chelsea substitute Daniel Sturridge ricocheted off his shins and into the back of the net to give Fulham's West London derby rivals all three points.
Hodgson, though, insisted the centre-back was helpless in the incident and was highly impressed with the youngster's performance after he was handed a late start in the injury-enforced absence of star defender Brede Hangeland.
Fulham's boss told Sky Sports when asked about the own goal: "He could do nothing about it. I thought his performance was really outstanding, he had a magnificent game.
"The own goal, which will go down to his name, was one of those goals that is like when the ball hits the post and rebounds off goalkeepers. There is not much you can do."
Hodgson added: "The other positives were things I'm beginning to expect from this team. They do not let me down, they do not let the club down and they do it week after week.
"No matter who the opponent, we work very hard, keep a good shape and keep our discipline.
"For Chris Smalling to be thrown in at the deep end, with little notice and no chance to work with him, I thought he did exceptionally well."