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Hitting close to home

To celebrate extending our unbeaten league run against Fulham to 18 matches, our second best against any team in the Premier League era, we pick out some memorable west London derbies from that time.

That series of unbeaten games in the top flight covers 11 wins and seven draws, and can only be beaten by the series of 28 matches without defeat against another of our capital rivals Tottenham, which lasted from the start of the Premier League in 1992 until 2006. That run against Spurs also came off the back of a further four unbeaten games in the last two seasons of the old Division One.

Our last loss to our neighbours and fellow residents of the London Borough of Fulham was almost exactly 13 years ago, and thankfully that number didn’t prove to be unlucky when Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho’s goals gave us a 2-1 win on our latest visit to Craven Cottage on Sunday.

In March 2006, despite being well on our way to a second consecutive Premier League title, we suffered a shock defeat in a controversial and ill-tempered match on the north bank of the Thames. William Gallas was sent off and Didier Drogba had a goal disallowed as we went down 1-0 to a fortunate Luis Boa Morte effort, our first defeat to Fulham in 27 years.

That left the Blues players eager for revenge when we next visited the Cottage in September, and we started our unbeaten run with a win despite a determined display from the home side. It looked like it wouldn’t be our day when Arjen Robben and Drogba both hit the woodwork, but then two goals in seven minutes from Frank Lampard returned west London bragging rights to the blue side of SW6, where they have remained ever since.

When the Whites came to Stamford Bridge in early May 2009, Chelsea could have been forgiven for being a little distracted, with the second leg of a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona just four days away. However, Nicolas Anelka’s mind was clearly focused on the task at hand as he opened the scoring after just 51 seconds, starting and finishing a lightning quick break up-field.

A frantic start to the match saw the visitors equalise through Erik Nevland only three minutes later, but by the 10th minute we were back in control, thanks to Florent Malouda firing home Drogba’s cross. Our Ivorian striker had another goal against Fulham disallowed, but settled the match in the second half as he breezed around future Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and slotted into the empty net.

The next season saw Carlo Ancelotti installed as the new Blues manager, and the Italian’s first-ever London derby came at Craven Cottage, in August 2009.
Again, it was strikers Drogba and Anelka who did all the damage against our neighbours. First Drogba beat the offside trap to latch on to Anelka’s pass and open the scoring, before the duo switched roles for the Frenchman to make the three points safe, our 26th win in our last 27 games against Fulham in all competitions.

When the Whites made the short trip to the Bridge in September 2013, they must have fancied their chances of ending their winless run against Chelsea, given that we were suffering our worst start to a season for a decade. However, although we had to work hard for it, by the end of the day we were back to winning ways and top of the Premier League on goal difference.

Oscar gave us the lead shortly after half-time when he turned in the rebound from Samuel Eto’o’s effort at close range, but it was our second strike which this game will be remembered for. That is because it was what turned out to be John Mikel Obi’s one and only league goal for Chelsea, scored on his 185th top-flight appearance, the longest any outfield player has gone before scoring their first goal in the Premier League.

Our visit to the Cottage later that season was the last until the current campaign, as Fulham’s relegation to the Championship saw this derby absent from the fixture schedule for the subsequent four seasons, before returning with their promotion in 2018.

Again, in March 2014, it was one player who hogged the headlines, this time Andre Schurrle getting all the glory in a 3-1 win, at that time representing the Blues before returning to west London with Fulham last summer. After a goalless first half the game didn’t look set for much excitement, until the German international popped up with his only hat-trick for Chelsea, and in English football so far.

He scored all three goals in the space of 16 devastating minutes, taking us four points clear at the top of the Premier League and denying Fulham the chance to move off the bottom of the table. Schurrle must have brought back some fond memories of Craven Cottage when he made it his home at the start of this season.

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