Brentford provide the opposition for our first home league game of the season on Saturday which makes it an opportune time to look back at some of the best West London derbies we’ve played in the Premier League era. My five particular favourites are listed below in reverse order with in 5th place the only draw in my selection…
5) CHELSEA 2-2 FULHAM (30/12/06)
My other four choices are victories but this point at Stamford Bridge makes the top five as to my mind a draw there constitutes a win. The selective merits of the two sides over our time in the Premier League has always made getting a point there a great result and in any case there aren’t any actual wins to choose from.
This fixture in 2006/07 was a case in point with as usual Chelsea challenging for the title in 2nd while we were in the bottom half trying to avoid being dragged into relegation trouble. Jose Mourinho’s Champions had a galaxy of stars to pick from while Chris Coleman had to mend and make do with right back Moritz Volz in the midst of his emergency role as a midfielder. One shaft of light for us was that with a goalkeeping crisis third choice Hilario had been pressed into a rare appearance between the Chelsea sticks.
As it turned out our German made the first mark on the game in the 16th minute when he latched onto Frank Queudrue’s throw-in before a hesitant Chelsea defence could react and lashed a shot past the stranded home keeper. It was the 15,000th goal scored in the Premier League which afforded newspaper editors a very easy headline and gave Moritz a new nickname. We held the lead until 10 minutes before the interval when our usual nemesis Frank Lampard scored with a deflected shot from outside the box.
Parity remained until just after the hour when Lampard crossed for Didier Drogba to put the home side in front. However, we refused to cave and battled hard to stay in the game and with just 7 minutes left got our reward. American defender Carlos Bocanegra was our second unlikely scorer of the day when he tucked home from close range after Hilario had parried Brian McBride’s effort to cue bedlam in our corner of the stadium. It might have got even better in the last minute when Volz fizzed a cross across the Chelsea box to just elude a finishing touch. It mattered not – we’d ‘won’ anyway.
4) FULHAM 6-0 QPR (02/10/11)
We went into this fixture with new manager Martin Jol still looking for his first Premier League win after going without victory in the first 6 league outings. It was an unseasonably sizzling October Sunday and with live TV cameras in attendance it proved to be the ideal occasion for the Dutchman to break his duck.
Andrew Johnson was to get the headlines on the day with his hat-trick but there were exceptional performances right across the park as we tore into Rangers and simply blew them away. Johnson opened the scoring after just 89 seconds firing home after Paddy Kenny could only parry Mousa Dembele’s shot. The only surprise amid the onslaught was that we had to wait until the 18th minute for a second. This time Johnson was brought down in the box and the ever reliable Danny Murphy tucked the spot kick away. Johnson was on hand again to make it three 7 minutes before the break with Rangers boss Neil Warnock grateful to hear the half time whistle.
The visitors did improve after Warnock’s interval changes but Fulham were simply clinical on the day and went on to double their advantage in the second half. Johnson completed his treble just before the hour mark before Clint Dempsey made it 5 with 25 minutes still to play. Bobby Zamora made it a round half dozen and concluded scoring for the day with about twenty minutes left. This coincidentally was about the same time Adel Taarabt (who Warnock had taken off at half time) was spotted catching a bus home on the Fulham Palace Road. The capturing of that image crowned what had been a rather special day at the Cottage.
3) FULHAM 3-2 BRENTFORD (20/08/22)
We welcomed the Bees on the corresponding weekend a year ago for the first ever top flight encounter between the two clubs. We’d seen plenty of each other in recent seasons at Championship level but aside from our Play-Off final win behind closed doors at Wembley in 2020, we’d enjoyed little success against Brentford. In fact, you’d have to go back as far as April 1990 to find a home victory for Fulham when Steve Milton’s winner helped us in our battle to avoid relegation to the Fourth Division which ultimately we avoided by a single point.
The Third or even Fourth Division was commonly where Brentford were to be found in that era but much respect must be accorded for their rise in recent times. They bounced back from play-0ff defeat to us by earning promotion via the same route a year on and had acquitted themselves very well in their debut Premier League campaign. We therefore knew we’d be in for a tough battle in this game so were delighted to take the lead with just 44 seconds on the clock. Jay Stansfield clipped the crossbar in our first attack before Bobby De Cordova Reid steered the rebound in to give us a lightning start. When Joao Palhinha powered in a header to double our advantage on 20 minutes we could have been forgiven for thinking we were on the road to an easy victory. Of course, it was never going to be that simple and Christian Norgaard’s goal on the stroke of half time restored the Bees belief. The second half became a different game and although we survived an Ivan Toney strike courtesy of VAR he did level for real with around 20 minutes to play. Momentum seemed to be with the visitors but Marco Silva’s introduction of Kevin Mbabu and Tom Cairney wrested the initiative back Fulham’s way. Aleksandar Mitrovic twice came close to putting us back in front before the two substitutes combined in the final minute. Cairney fed Mbabu on the right and his swinging cross was met powerfully by Mitrovic whose header looped past the despairing Raya to send the Hammy End into ecstasy. Last gasp winners are always special but this one was more special than most.
2) FULHAM 2-1 CHELSEA (12/01/23)
This game had originally been scheduled for early September when we had been enjoying a bright start to the season and Chelsea were in disarray following Thomas Tuchel’s departure. I thought at the time we may never have a better opportunity to beat them only for the game to be cancelled following the death of Queen Elizabeth. I assumed Sod’s Law would apply to whenever the rearranged fixture was played; meaning by that time Chelsea would be flying under a new manager.
However, the powers that be decided to squeeze the game in on a Thursday night in early January and to be fair the omens still looked good for us. We had been in fine form after returning from the World Cup break while new Chelsea boss Graham Potter was struggling to get a tune from the millions of pounds worth of talent at his disposal. The downside for us was that Aleksandar Mitrovic was suspended that night and deputy Carlos Vinicius had yet to look convincing in the limited chances he’d been given. Meanwhile, Chelsea were able to field Portuguese International Joao Felix for his debut having paid around £10 million just to loan him for the remainder of the season. It was another indication of the difference in resources between the two clubs and a reminder that no matter how chaotic it seemed behind the scenes they still had plenty of talent to reckon with.
Indeed, Chelsea started brightly but it was Fulham who came closest to scoring when Bobby De Cordova Reid whistled a long ranger against the crossbar. We only had to wait another two minutes before we did take the lead when Willian scored against his old club courtesy of a Lampardesque deflection. The Brazilian muted his celebrations in respect to his old employers but there were no such reservations amongst a delirious home support.
Chelsea were well in the game though and when Koulibaly equalised early in the second half it looked like momentum had turned. However, in the 58th minute debutant Felix lunged recklessly at Kenny Tete and saw red for his trouble. With an extra man we got back on the front foot and in the 72nd minute scored what proved to be the winner. Andreas Pereira angled in a deep cross from the right and with the Chelsea keeper in no man’s land, Vinicius arrived at the back post to guide a header home. From then on we nullified any Chelsea threat to secure just our second ever Premier League victory over them. Carlos did look a little more likely later in the season when he got an extended run in the team courtesy of Mitrovic’s suspension but his winner that night will always be ‘vini..dication’ enough to make him a Fulham hero.
1) FULHAM 1-0 CHELSEA (19/03/06)
If the omens were okay for our game with Chelsea in January they certainly weren’t when they came to Craven Cottage in March 2006. Jose Mourinho had them well clear at the top of the table while we had just suffered 4 successive defeats with 12 goals being shipped in the last three games alone. A look at the respective lineups gave no cause for optimism either when comparing Chelsea’s array of superstars with our mixture of journeymen professionals. We did have a little star quality in our ranks though in the form of Steed Malbranque and Luis Boa Morte and it was these two that combined in the 17th minute to give us the lead. The Frenchman’s shot pinged off a couple of defenders and Boa converged on the ball with Paulo Ferreira to get a decisive touch that seemed to ricochet into the Chelsea net. Our energetic approach was clearly flustering our vaunted opposition and after just 25 minutes a vexed Mourinho hauled Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole off and replaced them with Damien Duff and Didier Drogba.
The visitors looked a different proposition from then on and 12 minutes into the second half Drogba looked to have levelled matters after running clear and dispatching a shot past Mark Crossley. We were apoplectic as he had clearly scooped the ball forwards with his hand. Initially, it seemed the officials had missed the infringement before somehow coming to the right decision.
With feelings high on both sides the game got even more frenetic and Chelsea pressed ever harder for an equaliser. However, our back four of Moritz Volz, Ian Pearce, Zat Knight and Liam Rosenior (playing out of position at left back) defended heroically and withstood everything thrown at them. Crossley made a fantastic save tipping over a John Terry header late on and in injury time William Gallas completely lost the plot and was sent off right in front of the Johnny Haynes stand. He was duly serenaded off and moments later the final whistle blew to cue bedlam among the Fulham faithful and a pitch invasion from some who couldn’t contain their excitement. Some critics said our celebrations were over the top but for those present that day in an untypical febrile atmosphere the elation and passion were completely understandable. Thoughts of that match still give me goosebumps 17 years on and that’s why it remains undoubtedly my favourite West London derby.