With a 3-0 lead from the first leg, Fulham travelled to Dnipropetrovsk with one foot in the Group Stages of the UEFA Europa League, knowing that a professional and disciplined performance would be enough to avoid an upset and ensure progress.
However, the home side had no intention of giving the Whites an easy ride, still possessing a belief that, on home turf, the tie could be turned around. And they would have been encouraged by some early spells of possession as they pressed, looking for openings, but found a Fulham defence alert and ready for the challenge.
It made for an engaging, competitive contest with action at both ends. The first chance came on 15 minutes when Duff was allowed to break from midfield and drive a low shot from the right edge of the area. His zipping effort was on target, but a full stretch save from Jan Lastuvka was able to nudge it out for a corner.
Moments later at the other end, Konoplyanka broke free and cut into the penalty area from the left. He beat Baird, but his shot lacked conviction and was scooped up comfortably by Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham suffered a blow on 20 minutes when John Arne Riise was withdrawn after picking up a knock. Newly called-up England U21 international Matthew Briggs replaced him.
And within seconds there was more bad news for Martin Jol’s side. Dnipro pressure had resulted in a corner on the left and a precise delivery was headed across the box to the far post where Yevhen Shakhov was lurking to smash the ball into the net from point blank range.
Before the half hour, Dnipro threatened again. An Inkoom cross from the right was missed by Kalinic’s acrobatic effort but picked up by Giuliano who laid the ball back to the edge of the area where Shakhov was running in. His long-range drive rose over the bar though, without troubling Schwarzer.
As the half neared its conclusion, Fulham started to enjoy more attacking possession, neatly passing from left to right as they advanced forward. But Dnipro ‘keeper Lastuvka was equal to any crosses delivered into his box.
The first period ended with one final effort from Dnipro, who had been awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. Konoplyanka’s set piece was accurate and dangerous, but Schwarzer was alert to tip it over, and when nothing came from the resultant corner, referee Tom Harald Hagen blew the whistle for the interval.
As expected, the home side came out for the second period with determined attacking intent, chasing the goals they needed to save the tie. Five minutes after the restart came the first test for the Fulham defence, Hughes blocking shots from Giuliano and Inkoom in quick succession, and Schwarzer having to rush from his goal to chase out the danger. Moments later, Shakhov scooped a half-volley over the bar from the edge of the box.
Before the hour there were further advances as Schwarzer had to stretch to clutch a free-kick from deep by Konoplyanka, and Kalinic tested the ‘keeper further with a snapshot on the turn inside the six yard box.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes Dnipro threw more caution to the wind, introducing a third striker, Antonov, to add to Kalinic and the previously introduced Rotan. Meanwhile, Pajtim Kasami replaced Mousa Dembele for the Whites.
And the changes predictably added to the pressure, as Fulham were forced to defend for their lives. Chris Baird had to desperately hack away a loose ball after Schwarzer failed to hold a low cross and Konoplyanka lurked with intent, whilst Hangeland and Hughes continued to make timely blocks as the hosts piled forward.
However, the increased attacking desperation resulted in openings at the back, and on 75 minutes Damien Duff found himself free in the opponents’ half. Attacking to the right of goal, he pulled Lastuvka out of position and squared the ball low across the box. Kasami was the willing recipient at the far post but, with the goal at his mercy, the teenager side-footed over.
It was a rare chance for the Whites in a half when every ounce of discipline and concentration was required to maintain the 3-1 aggregate advantage. As the game reached its final stages the home side had 10 players pushed into the Fulham half, one last roll of the dice, but their efforts were in vain, as the Whites had achieved what they had set out to do at the end of June.
After eight matches all over Europe, they had secured a place in the UEFA Europa League Group Stages.