x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dempsey doubles up

Chelsea's title challenge took a real wobble after a last-minute goal from Clint Dempsey earned Fulham a draw against their derby rivals and left Luiz Felipe Scolari's side trailing Liverpool by three points in the title race.

The Fulham player Clinton Dempsey was on the scoresheet twice against Chelsea.
The Fulham player Clinton Dempsey was on the scoresheet twice against Chelsea.

LONDON // Chelsea's title challenge took a real wobble after a last-minute goal from Clint Dempsey earned Fulham a draw against their derby rivals and left Luiz Felipe Scolari's side trailing Liverpool by three points in the title race. In a dramatic match, Chelsea went behind early on through the first of Dempsey's two goals, but thought they had rescued victory thanks to two strikes from Frank Lampard.

But Fulham stunned their more illustrious opponents when Dempsey headed home a Simon Davies corner in the 89th minute. The result means Chelsea are now four points adrift of leaders Liverpool in the title race and Scolari trudged off the pitch a dejected man at the final whistle and he clearly has plenty to think about. He had sprung a surprise by leaving out top scorer Nicolas Anelka and midfielder Michael Ballack, replacing them with Florent Malouda and Deco.

But it was the home side who went ahead after 10 minutes as Davies floated over a free-kick from the left and Chelsea allowed the ball to bobble around before Dempsey deftly flicked it home at the far post. Didier Drogba dragged an excellent chance wide after 19 minutes and Chelsea were then hit by a double injury blow as Malouda limped off injured to be replaced by Anelka after 30 minutes and Alex followed suit, replaced by Ricardo Carvalho.

Chelsea stepped up the pressure after the interval and were rewarded with an equaliser on 50 minutes . Joe Cole's pass created havoc in the Fulham defence and as Aaron Hughes hesitated and keeper Mark Schwarzer did likewise, Lampard pounced to fire the rebound home. Cole was denied by a double save from Schwarzer before Lampard gave them the lead on 72 minutes , firing home a long-distance free-kick after Andrew Johnson had felled Deco.

But just when it seemed Chelsea had earned themselves a crucial victory, up popped Dempsey to equalise. @Email:sports@thenational.ae