Fulham made a bright start to the match with Damien Duff twice firing just wide in the opening minutes. RNK Split continued with the 5-3-2 formation which served them so well in the first leg, allowing for a good deal of flexibility due to the mobility of both full-backs.
Visiting manager, Ivan Katalinic, was certainly wary of Fulham’s wide play, hence the additional width afforded to his defensive line. Whilst the formation may have made RNK a more difficult proposition to play through, it also invited Fulham to attack.
The Whites deservedly took the lead on the 19th minute when Andrew Johnson glanced a header past Andrija Vukovic from a Damien Duff corner. The goal allowed Fulham the extra time and space to draw their opponents out from their shell.
Excellent pressuring from Johnson on 27 minutes won possession back for the Whites at the by-line. The striker’s pass found Clint Dempsey, who sidestepped two challenges before curling an effort just wide of the post.
As the first-half progressed, the gaps in the RNK defence started appearing with greater frequency. On 32 minutes Johnson laid a short pass into the path of the surging Danny Murphy, whose shot drew a good save from Vukovic.
Clint Dempsey, making his first appearance of the 2011/12 season, looked in fine form after having been given additional time to rest following his participation in the United States’ summer fixture calendar. But Dempsey drew some unwanted attention from Ivan Baraban on 43 minutes, whose clattering challenge on the American earned the first yellow card of the game.
RNK looked intent on registering an equaliser soon after the start of the second-half, and one almost came on 47 minutes when Ante Vitaic unleashed a powerful free-kick from 25 yards that just faded away from Mark Schwarzer’s left hand post.
Danny Murphy doubled Fulham’s lead from the penalty spot on 55 minutes after Andrew Johnson was unceremoniously brought down in the area by a badly timed challenge from Velimir Vidic. Murphy, calm as ever, sent Vukovic the wrong way with a well-placed kick.
RNK still posed a threat, as was demonstrated in the 61st minute when Goran Milovic volleyed against the underside of the Fulham crossbar after a free-kick was delivered into the area. With nothing to lose, RNK began producing their best attacking football of the encounter.
The visitors were certainly letting their shots go and, having registered no efforts on target in the first-half, they upped their strike-rate after the break, testing Schwarzer five times by the 80th minute.
Mousa Dembele made his first appearance of the season on 75 minutes when he was brought on in place of Bobby Zamora. Clint Dempsey’s evening ended on 80 minutes after he was replaced by Matthew Briggs. Pajtim Kasami was Fulham third and final substitution, replacing Damien Duff.
With the match drifting away from them, Split tried their utmost to get back in contention but as the seconds ticked away and their frustrations grew, Fulham look more comfortable with their lead.