Chelsea frustrated by Hull-abaloo

JOHN TERRY’S week of misery showed no signs of improving as his Chelsea side dropped two vital points at struggling Hull City to blow the race for the Barclays Premier League title wide open last night.

Terry was made to suffer both on and off the pitch at the KC Stadium, where home supporters hit him with a barrage of abuse while his team found themselves having to settle for a draw.

Even that was only achieved when Didier Drogba secured a first-half equaliser upon his return to domestic duties.

England captain Terry is due to meet coach Fabio Capello at the end of this week to explain his recent behaviour following lurid allegations about his private life.

In the meantime, he will be left to ponder how Chelsea failed to dispatch a Phil Brown side that hasn’t won in the league for 10 games.

Their lead at the top of the table is now down to just two points and the biggest winners on the night were Manchester United, with Alex Ferguson no doubt raising a glass of his favourite red wine to Hull’s players following a dogged display from the hosts.

Carlo Ancelotti had the luxury of recalling Drogba for the first time since he departed for the African Cup of Nations over four weeks ago, while Joe Cole and Ashley Cole had to be content with places on the bench.

Terry also maintained his place in the side despite the ongoing pressure on him to resign as England captain following his off-field problems while Deco was recalled to the starting line-up.

Brown, meanwhile, made just one change to the side which was held to a disappointing draw with Stoke City last weekend, recalling Craig Fagan on the right wing in place of Bernard Mendy.

The Hull manager also resisted the temptation to hand a full debut to new loan signing Amr Zaki.

Hull had gone nine games without a victory and found themselves entrenched in the relegation zone. Considering Manchester City were the next visitors to the KC Stadium, then the immediate future looked bleak.

But Chelsea struggled to find their rhythm from the start and seemed to make Hull’s evening easier than expected.

Frank Lampard worried Boaz Myhill with a swerving drive inside nine minutes which the Hull goalkeeper could only palm straight to Nicolas Anelka but the French striker stubbed his shot badly with the goal at his mercy.

It wasn’t until the 24th minute that Chelsea threatened again when Branislav Ivanovic sent over an inch-perfect cross for the waiting Michael Ballack but all the German midfielder could do was power his diving header straight at Myhill from close range.

The longer the game went on, the more Hull seemed to grow in confidence but it still came a surprise when they took the lead with their first real attack of the game.

Terry was nowhere to be seen on 30 minutes as Stephen Hunt swung over a corner and Steven Mouyokolo rose highest to head past the helpless Petr Cech and send home supporters delirious.

But Hull’s lead always looked fragile, and three minute before half time Drogba levelled the scores with a powerful free kick into the bottom corner of Myhill’s goal.

Yet Hull could have restored their lead on the stroke of half-time when Tom Cairney’s free kick found the head of the unmarked Anthony Gardner, but the defender could only direct his effort over the crossbar.

Ricardo Carvalho was also called on to make a crucial tackle on Jozy Altidore as the US striker looked set to bare down on Cech’s goal.

But Chelsea always carried a threat and Myhill had to be at his best to keep the scores level with a fine double save just before the hour mark.

First, he got down sharply to tip wide a skidding drive from Florent Malouda before producing an even better stop to keep out Drogba’s downward header from Malouda’s cross.

Their night of frustration was complete in stoppage time when Myhill produced the best save of all to keep out substitute Daniel Sturridge’s dipping drive.

Match rating: **** An excellent contest that had a little of everything – from the melodrama surrounding John Terry to a battling display from the relegation-threatened home side.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg: 5 – Somehow managed to upset both teams for Chelsea’s equaliser. The visitors claiming he should have awarded a penalty; the home side that he allowed Drogba to shoot before blowing his whistle.

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