Fulham 1 - 2 Chelsea

Scorers: Murphy(10' pen), Kalou(54'), Ballack(62' pen).

Starting Eleven:
Belleti, Alex, BenHaim, Bridge
Essien, Ballack, Sidwell
Wright-Phillips, Kalou, J.Cole

Chelsea celebrated the new year with a 2-1 win at the expense of Fulham, who have cemented their place in the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson certainly got an idea of life at Craven Cottage when Fulham failed once again to take any point from the match after scoring first.I predicted 3 goals in the match, but I thought Chelsea would keep a clean sheet.

Chelsea were lethargic in the first half. I don't know if that has something to do with Sidwell playing in central midfield. He certainly didn't impress anyone with his performance yesterday. Fulham played well in the first quarter of the match and maybe they deserved the gaol also. The goal came when Joe Cole fouled Volz inside the area and Murphy converted the penalty with ease. It was a soft penalty.

Grant wasn't happy with the way Blues were playing and demanded better performance in the second half. He brought Mikel instead of Sidwell and this helped Essein to take a more attacking role. We were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Dejan Stefanovic appeared to block Wright-Phillips' cross with his arm.And it took only eight minutes of the second period for Chelsea to draw level, Kalou heading forcefully home after Alex had knocked Juliano Belletti's corner back across goal. On the hour the turnaround was complete when Ballack converted a penalty that he had won himself after Clint Dempsey had pulled at his shirt as they were competing for Belletti's free-kick. Chelsea continued to dominate the game and could have scored a couple more.

Michael Ballack was impressive again today. It would be interesting to see if Ballack plays the same way with Lampard back in team. This is already a matter of debate and discussion in Chelsea forums. Though he made some defensive errors, Belleti had a great game. So did Wright-Phillips and Essien. We are going to miss Essien the most when the African players leave for Ghana later this month to play the African Nations Cup. Chelsea will have to adjust with Ben Haim for one more match, after which Carvalho will return after a 3 match suspension. With Ben Haim, the defense somehow looks very susceptible.

10 points from 12, in a busy festive season schedule, is really good considering the circumstances. Its also 4 points more than what Mourinho managed last time. And the scene of Manchester United on backfoot, defending against waves of Birmingham attack for the final quarter of the game at Old Trafford gives an indication of how exciting the title race is going to be. Definitely, a good start to 2008.