From Division Three football to the Intertoto Cup and UEFA Europa League, Fulham FC have played at many football grounds in their 132 year history, but few as remote or unique as the Svanskard Stadium in Toftir on the Faroe Islands.
A 3-0 aggregate lead from the First Leg suggested the job may already have been done, but Martin Jol called for a professional approach from his players and named a strong line-up once again.
And he would have been pleased with the way his charges set about the game, dictating play from the off, clearly aiming for a repeat of the 70% possession that allowed them to dominate the home match a week earlier.
A bobbly surface threatened to disrupt the team’s usual passing game, but it didn’t stop the Whites from creating several chances in the opening 10 minutes.
Bobby Zamora headed just over after a Jonathan Greening cross from the left, before Andrew Johnson forced a low save from NSI ‘keeper Andros Gango and Damien Duff saw an ambitious drive from outside the box bounce off the crossbar and over.
In need of goals, the home side knew they had to show more attacking endeavour than they had a week earlier and Mamuka Torojadze fired a half-chance into the side netting to give the local support hope.
But Fulham always looked in control and Duff will have been disappointed after 20 minutes when, placed perfectly to pick up the rebound from a blocked Johnson shot, his stabbed effort skewed over the bar from a matter of yards. Matthew Briggs then headed over moments later from a cross from the right.
Another spell of Fulham possession followed, culminating in two chances in quick succession for Johnson, one saved, the other blocked by a last ditch tackle.
The lively Fulham striker then won a free-kick on the right, from which Greening found Dickson Etuhu in the box – the midfielder’s glancing header forcing the ‘keeper to desperately palm the ball away from goal.
The Hungarian stopper had impressed at Craven Cottage and his side certainly had him to thank for keeping the score goal-less at half-time in Toftir.
After the break it was much the same story, Fulham enjoying the lion’s share of the play, but the very well organised Faroese side allowing their Premier League opponents very little space in which to cause damage. Martin Jol’s team were forced to work hard for a sight on goal, Duff and Briggs both creating chances out of nothing, but their low, driven efforts flew just off target. Duff and Zamora also saw speculative efforts sail clear of the bar, and the latter failed to unduly trouble Gango with a soft header.
As the game moved into the last 25 minutes, Martin Jol began to mix things up a little, bringing on 17-year-old debutant Kerim Frei in place of Andrew Johnson, and shortly after, Bjorn Helge Riise for Jonathan Greening.
Eager to impress, the talented Frei certainly injected some life into proceedings, but it was NSI who had the next chance to break the deadlock, Klaemint Olsen threaded through on the counter-attack. But as the striker neared goal, sensing the Fulham defenders breathing down his neck, he rather rushed his shot, which sliced to the right of the goal, failing to trouble Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham made a further change, bringing on Lauri Dalla Valle for Damien Duff, but with the home side’s hopes fading fast, and the Whites aware that their progress to the next round was becoming surer by the minute, chances at either end were at a premium, and the final whistle eventually blew to confirm a 0-0 draw and Fulham’s place in the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round.