Chelsea 1 Fulham 1: Villas-Boas admits title challenge now ‘difficult’

André Villas-Boas concedes Chelsea's title hopes are all but over after his side were held to their third successive league draw

Premier League, 26 December 2011, Stamford Bridge
team1
Chelsea
1 - 1
team2
Fulham

André Villas-Boas admitted Chelsea’s title hopes had suffered a severe blow after watching his side draw with Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Monday.

Juan Mata had fired the Blues into the lead shortly after the break following a goalless first half, but Clint Dempsey was on hand to bundle home Bryan Ruiz’s low cross just moments later as Martin Jol’s men condemned the Blues to their third straight 1-1 draw in the league.

Villas-Boas’s side remain nine points behind leaders Manchester City and second-placed United – and the Portuguese coach conceded Chelsea’s title hopes had faded further after the Stamford Bridge stalemate.

“The title will be pretty difficult now,” said Villas-Boas. “The distance by the end of today could make it very hard for us to challenge for the title. It would have been a good December for us if we’d finished with six points from two home games, but taking this draw into account it makes it difficult now.

“There is no big drama in how we change our perspective but you have to be realistic. Unexpectedly we reduced the gap to seven points a few weeks ago but with Manchester City continuing to pick up points, as well as Manchester United, it makes it difficult.”

Villas-Boas paid tribute to a stubborn Fulham defence who were largely able to keep Fernando Torres, starting his first league game in over two months, and Chelsea’s other attacking threats at bay.

“Fulham were very organised with no spaces between the lines,” he continued. “It was difficult and we couldn’t create enough penetration to give us the opportunities. We lost a bit of momentum after we scored the goal and they scored from a good chance.

“We tried a lot and had good opportunities but we always collided with a brave Fulham defence and David Stockdale who had a fantastic game in goal, we couldn’t get the second goal which would have given us the three points.

On the decision to start Torres and Daniel Sturridge ahead of Drogba, Villas-Boas added: “Drogba has been involved in every fixture since November apart from Carling Cup game.

“We decided to bring in Fernando who has been working well and he did well for the team and assisted Mata for the goal. He showed the same level of commitment as he has been in training in today’s game so I was happy.”

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