x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Cech saves blushes for Chelsea at Fulham after Torres poor show again

The goalkeeper saves a dramatic last-minute penalty after their big signing, Torres, had to be substituted in the 71st minute.

Petr Cech of Chelsea saves a penalty from Clint Dempsey at Craven Cottage.
Petr Cech of Chelsea saves a penalty from Clint Dempsey at Craven Cottage.

LONDON // A last-minute penalty from Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey was saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech as the west London derby finished 0-0 in the Premier League last night.

Dempsey was brought down by defender David Luiz, but the United States international's resulting spot kick was palmed away by Cech in a dramatic finish at Craven Cottage.

Chelsea had otherwise dominated a hard-fought but low-quality game, with £50 million signing Fernando Torres enduring a second frustrating match for the defending champions before being substituted in the 71st minute.

The draw leaves the Blues in fifth place, two points behind Tottenham and out of the Champions League positions.

Dempsey, Fulham's top scorer this season with nine goals, will rue his late miss, but even the most ardent home fans will acknowledge Chelsea deserved to go away with something from the match.

Torres began in his favored lone striker's role with Didier Drogba, Chelsea's leading scorer last season and first-choice striker for the past six years, on the bench after the pair had failed to gel in the 1-0 home loss to Liverpool eight days ago.

Torres had to feed off scraps early in the first half, which was hard-fought but bereft of any genuine clear-cut opportunities.

The Fulham winger Damien Duff, a former Chelsea player, had a stinging shot beaten away and teammate Andy Johnson's goal-bound effort was deflected over in the hosts' best chances.

At the other end, France winger Florent Malouda's fizzing drive flew just over and England midfielder Frank Lampard's shot on the turn just cleared the crossbar.

Torres sparked into life in the final two minutes of the half, but his control let him down on two occasions as he bore down on goal.

Firstly, he ran on to a header by Brazil midfielder Ramires but could only stretch to toe-poke a weak shot at goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

A minute later, Torres pounced on a fabulous long pass by fellow deadline-day signing David Luiz, who made an assured first start aside from his late foul on Dempsey, but allowed the ball to squirm away from him as he was about to take aim.

Torres, the world's fourth most expensive player, then headed over from a decent position following a searching cross by Ramires two minutes after the break.

At that stage, Chelsea was dominating midfield and looking like the only side capable of breaking the deadlock. The team was denied what appeared a clear penalty when Brede Hangeland got away with barging into the back of Malouda.

An unmarked Luiz headed a corner over from eight yards, before Drogba came on in the 71st for Torres, who lasted five minutes longer than in his Chelsea debut.

Michael Essien and Ramires went close for the visitors, while Cech saved from Dempsey in a rare attack at the other end.

Dempsey was sent tumbling by Luiz as he dribbled away from goal with a minute remaining, but he couldn't put away the penalty.

The draw pushed 12th-place Fulham four points clear of the relegation zone.