|A wonder strike by Bobby Zamora in Germany on Thursday night handed Fulham a 3-1 aggregate victory over the German champions, VfL Wolfsburg, and a place in the Semi-Finals of the Europa League.|
Chris Baird Card was given for a foul
Paul Konchesky Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Bjorn Helge Riise
Fulham made a dream start to the game at the VfL Wolfsburg Stadium on Thursday night thanks to a world-class turn and finish from Bobby Zamora after just 23 seconds of play.
From the first whistle Hodgson’s side headed straight up-field and when Zoltan Gera threaded the ball through to Zamora, with his back to goal, the striker turned his marker with a quite exquisite Cruyff turn before stroking the ball past Beneglio from 10 yards.
It was a stunning opening that sent Fulham’s travelling army of supporters into delirious celebrations, none more so than former Fulham defender Rufus Brevett, sitting in the press box. Hodgson’s side had not only extended their aggregate lead to 3-1, but also crucially cancelled out Wolfsburg’s first leg away goal.
Fulham’s front pair tormented Wolfburg’s defence early on and Gera almost doubled Fulham’s lead after six minutes with the deftest of headers from 8 yards. Wolfsburg keeper Benaglio was stretched to the limit to tip the ball past the far post.
Wolfsburg’s potent attacking force almost grabbed a goal back just before the ten minute mark when Riether’s cross from the right flank was fired goalwards. Schwarzer was forced into a low save to push the ball around the post and Fulham’s support drew a sigh of relief.
A minute later Wolfsburg thought they were back in the game when Grafite stabbed the ball past Schwarzer from close range. The home crowd’s wild celebrations were premature as the linesman’s flag was raised for a clear offside by the striker.
Zamora’s early strike had the affect of turning Thursday’s match into a fine spectacle. The home side, desperate to reduce the deficit, attacked at will, but Fulham’s measured counter attacks produced the greatest danger early on.
It was end-to-end football and after 15 minutes of play Hodgson’s side almost doubled their advantage once again when Murphy’s stinging shot from distance forced Benaglio into a fine save.
Wolfsburg’s main threat came from crosses out wide or set plays, but Fulham kept the home side at bay from Schwarzer’s area. Chris Baird handled Dzeko superbly down the flank and Etuhu’s simple yet effective distribution in front of Fulham’s back four played a crucial role.
Thursday’s officials were having no nonsense on the pitch, highlighted by Dzeko’s booking after 34 minutes for dissent. Barely thirty seconds later Wolfsburg coach Lorenz-Gunther Kostner made his first change of the game, introducing Dejagah for Pekarik.
Fulham’s snappy, one-touch passing in the final third was outstanding during the first half. At times the guile of Duff and Gera completely outfoxed Wolfsburg’s defence on several occasions during the first 45.
The game ebbed and flowed before half time and Fulham’s 3-1 lead remained intact largely thanks to Aaron Hughes’ near post intervention from Dejagah’s cross right before half-time.
After Zamora’s early wonder strike Roy Hodgson’s side were just 45 minutes from the final four of the Europa League.
Wolfsburg got the second half underway with Fulham attacking towards their travelling support. Five minutes into the second half Simon Davies was left writhing in agony following an aerial challenge with Josue.
The Wolfsburg captain appeared to catch the Welsh midfielder in the rib area with an elbow. Davies gingerly returned to the fray a few minutes later but was clearly in pain for some time during the second half.
After 53 minutes Wolfsburg’s danger man Dzeko was released into space on the counter attack down Fulham’s left flank. The Whites were on the back foot and the striker appeared to have the edge but Hughes produced a turn of pace to not only catch the striker, but also marshal him over the by-line.
As the hour mark approached Fulham looked more than worthy of their one-nil lead (3-1 aggregate). Wolfsburg had no option but to attack, however their efforts proved fruitless and Fulham looked more than likely to catch the home side on the counter attack.
That moment came after 58 minutes when Murphy sent a perfectly weighted lob over the Wolfsburg back four for Zamora. The striker sprinted clear but Benaglio, racing out of his goal, managed to palm Zamora’s goal bound effort to safety.
Wolfsburg made their second attacking change of the game on the hour mark, introducing former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins for Gentner.
The cards came out moments later with the Referee booking Dejagah and Konchesky in the space of a minute. The pace of the game subsided after the hour mark as Fulham protected their two-goal advantage with ease.
Danny Murphy looked to put a seal on the game with 20 minutes remaining. After turning two defenders on the edge of the area the midfielder curled a right-footed effort towards the top corner. Benaglio was beaten but Murphy’s effort flew wide.
With 15 minutes remaining both sides were denied by some world-class goalkeeping. First Mark Schwarzer produced a stunning fingertip save to deny Dzeko’s volley from 10 yards before Benaglio denied Davies just seconds later at the other end.
Nine minutes from time Grafite denied Danny Murphy from ten yards with a goal-line clearance. It was agonising for Fulham’s supporters behind the goal. Roy Hodgson then introduced Nevland to the action, in place of the outstanding Gera.
Fulham may have felt hard done by with Murphy’s effort but their luck came home just a minute later in a quite remarkable sequence of events.
Dzeko, breaking into the area down the left flank, fired past Schwarzer against the foot of the post. The ball then rebounded to Martins, just five yards from goal, who poked the ball towards an empty net. Incredibly Hangeland, running in the opposition direction, back-heeled the ball away to safety. Hodgson then introduced Riise for Davies for the final minutes of the match.
Fulham played out the remaining minutes in relative comfort despite Wolfsburg’s best efforts with Fulham’s travelling supporters roaring proudly to victory in the Wolves’ den.
Fulham’s remarkable European dream lives on with Roy Hodgson’s Team proudly heading for a Semi-Final showdown in the Europa League after a convincing 1-0 (3-1 aggregate) victory over Wolfsburg on Thursday night in Germany. It was quite simply, another truly historic night in the Club’s history.
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Date: Thursday 8 April 2010
Venue: Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg
Referee: Viktor Kassai
Team line-up is not available.
Line-up: Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies (Bjorn Helge Riise 85'); Gera (Nevland 81'); Zamora
Unused substitutes: Zuberbühler, Kelly, Smalling, Greening, Dikgacoi