Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Chelsea slipped 12 points off the lead in English soccer’s Premier League as Petr Cech’s last-minute penalty save helped the defending champion salvage a 0-0 draw at west London rival Fulham.
Goalkeeper Cech saved Clint Dempsey’s spot kick last night after David Luiz, making his first start since joining Chelsea last month, was ruled to have tripped the U.S. forward in the third minute of added time at Craven Cottage in west London.
The result leaves defending champion Chelsea in fifth place with 45 points, 12 behind leader Manchester United, which has a four-point advantage over second-place Arsenal with 12 games remaining. United and Arsenal both won at the weekend.
“For the title, this point is too little,” Cech told Sky Sports. “Mathematically it’s not over, but obviously we are quite far now because they won their games and we lost two points tonight.”
Cech guessed correctly with his dive to keep out Dempsey’s penalty kick and deny Fulham -- which stays in 12th place with 31 points -- the chance to secure a fourth straight home win in the league.
Following a 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool in its last match, Chelsea left Didier Drogba out of its starting lineup as coach Carlo Ancelotti played Fernando Torres up front ahead of Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda.
Torres, who joined the Blues from Liverpool on Jan. 31 for 50 million pounds ($80 million), a record fee between U.K. clubs, wasted chances either side of halftime as Chelsea had 60 percent of the possession.
The Spanish striker lost control of the ball after being put through on goal by Luiz in the first half and headed over from Ramirez’s cross in the second half. He was replaced by Drogba with 20 minutes left.
“He has to know our kind of play, I think his performance for 60 minutes was good,” Ancelotti said of Torres. “He had two opportunities to score and was not lucky. He was better compared to his last performance against Liverpool.”
Chelsea’s next league match is March 1 against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The 12-point gap between the teams may be too much to make up, Ancelotti said.
“It’s very difficult,” he told Sky Sports. “Obviously we have to try to do our best, game by game.”
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