|Fulham reached the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night after knocking out the current UEFA Cup holders, Shakhtar Donetsk, at the Donbass Arena.|
Assist by Damien Duff
Zoltán Gera Card was given for a foul
Danny Murphy Card was given for violent conduct
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Bjorn Helge Riise
It was another remarkable night of European football for Fulham in the Ukraine on Thursday, with the Whites defeating the UEFA Cup holders, Shakhtar Donetsk, 3-2 on aggregate. A 1-1 draw at the Donbass Arena was enough to see the Whites through to the final 16.
Fulham, in their all-white kit, got Thursday evening’s UEFA Europa League clash against Shakhtar Donetsk underway, in front of a sea of orange and black inside the stunning Donbass Arena.
With Fulham holding a 2-1 advantage over the current UEFA Cup holders, Shakhtar went on the offensive from the first whistle.
Luiz Adriano fired in the first shot of the game inside the first minute of play; his 25 yard effort falling safely into Mark Schwarzer’s arms.
Just two minutes later the striker fired in a scintillating shot from distance, forcing Schwarzer to produce a superb fingertip save to keep Fulham’s lead intact.
For all of Shakhtar’s possession and attacking intent during the opening exchanges, Roy Hodgson’s team kept their composure with some well organised defensive play.
After 10 minutes Jadson latched onto a cross from the right in a central position 12 yards from goal. The home crowd were off their feet, sensing a finish, but Jadson fluffed his shot.
The deafening noise inside the Donbass Arena went up a few notches when Fernandinho smashed a thirty-yard effort in on goal. It was a fierce drive but once again, Schwarzer was on hand to produce a stunning fingertip save.
The Whites were certainly camped in their own half during the first half but Fulham’s two banks of four were keeping the tide at bay. If Fulham were to increase their advantage it would be on the counter but every effort was needed to protect their advantage.
As the half hour mark approached Shakhtar turned the pressure up, winning several corners off long-range strikes. Fortunately Schwarzer was once again producing another world-class performance in goal.
To their credit Fulham remained resolute and some of Brede Hangeland’s last-ditch tackling was inspired. The towering Norwegian was taking no prisoners on Thursday night, as Ilsinho discovered in a tussle on the by-line after 30 minutes of play.
Fulham’s ‘catch them on the counter’ tactic worked an absolute treat after 32 minutes play when Brede Hangeland sent the Donbass Arena into complete silence when he headed Damien Duff’s corner into the Shakhtar net.
Hangeland rose above Shakhtar’s defence to head into the corner of the net from 8 yards out. It was a stunning moment, which left Shakhtar shaken. Fulham’s tails were up with a 3-1 advantage and after defending for near on half an hour the balance of play literally switched halves. Roy Hodgson’s Team were attacking at will as half-time approached.
Hangeland’s goal certainly took the sting out of Shakhtar’s offensive play and the remainder of the first-half was played out in relative comfort for Fulham.
Shakhtar came out early for the second half with Fulham retaining the same eleven for the second period.
The home side, looking to recover a two-goal deficit, attacked from the flanks but Roy Hodgson’s side never looked troubled during the early stages of the second half.
Hangeland underlined his defensive strength after 47 minutes when Fernandinho smashed into a fifty-fifty challenge with the Norwegian powerhouse 20 yards from goal. Hangeland didn’t move an inch from the full-blooded challenge, remaining rooted to the ground.
After 52 minutes play Willian limped from the field of play, replaced by Douglas Costa. It wasn't until the 62nd minute until Costa earned his first sight of goal but his long range effort sailed harmlessly over Schwarzer's bar.
For Fulham, Bobby Zamora was working tirelessly in attack, hunting down any stray balls and harrying Shakhtar’s defence - the big man provided a crucial outlet on Thursday night.
The Donbass Arena erupted after 68 minutes when Jadson stroked the ball home from close range after latching onto Costa’s cross from the right. The aggregate was now 3-2 in Fulham’s favour.
If Fulham were to reach the last 16 they would have to ride out 20 minutes of unabated pressure. Roy Hodgson made his first change of the game immediately after Shakhtar’s equaliser, replacing Bobby Zamora with David Elm.
The home side attacked in waves and utter composure was required on and off the ball inside the cauldron that was the Donbass Arena. It was nerve-wracking stuff for Fulham’s supporters in the top tier but the players were producing a sterling and stubborn defensive performance to keep Shakhtar at bay.
Ten minutes from time Rat went within a whisker of bringing the game level with a fierce left footed drive from 30 yards out down the left channel. The home crowd thought it was a cert but much to Fulham’s relief the ball rebounded off the advertising board behind Schwarzer’s goal.
Fernandinho was appealing for a penalty after 84 minutes following a rebound off Hughes in the area but the Referee was not impressed. Some relief came four minutes from time as Fulham entered into an extended spell of possession.
Roy Hodgson then introduced Bjorn Helge Riise for Simon Davies with barely a minute of normal time remaining. As the Fourth Official indicated one minute of added time Zoltan Gera was handed a glorious chance to put the contest beyond doubt. Racing through for a on-on-one Gera sent his shot agonisingly wide of goal.
Fulham rode out the storm and a final flourish wasn't required as a 1-1 draw was enough to see Roy Hodgson's Team through to the final 16 of the UEFA Europa League. It was another memorable night of European football for the Club and the Europan adventure continues. The only sore point on a otherwise stunning night was a red card for captain Danny Murphy in the final seconds of the contest at the Donbass Arena.
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Date: Thursday 25 February 2010
Venue: Donbass Arena, Donetsk
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen
Team line-up is not available.
Line-up: Schwarzer; Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Kelly; Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies (Bjorn Helge Riise 88'); Gera; Zamora (Elm 71')
Unused substitutes: Zuberbühler, Smalling, Marsh-Brown, Greening, Nevland