|Fulham's Semi-Final of the UEFA Europa League will be decided at the Cottage next week after the Whites drew 0-0 with Hamburg in Germany on Thursday night.|
Chris Baird Card was given for a foul
Zoltán Gera Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Over 2,000 Fulham supporters made it to Germany to witness the Club’s Europa League Semi-Final (first leg) in Hamburg despite the recent travel disruptions across Europe.
The home side started strongly in the Nordbank Arena, threatening during the opening exchanges with several strikes from distance. Forced on to the defensive early on, Roy Hodgson’s side required plenty of concentration and focus to keep Hamburg at bay during the opening ten minutes.
Aaron Hughes, who nullified the threat of Ruud van Nistelrooy throughout the contest with some top class defending, personified the Whites defensive resilience on Thursday night.
After 13 minutes of play Fulham almost broke the deadlock against the run of play. A long ball from Konchesky found Zamora on the 18-yard line and the striker’s knockdown fell to feet of Gera. The Hungarian’s deflected shot looped agonisingly wide of goal.
As the 20-minute mark approached Fulham looked to have successfully drawn the early sting out of Hamburg’s attacking force and settled into a comfortable period of play.
However eight minutes later the home side moved up a gear and looked to stretch Fulham’s defence from the flanks. From wide positions the home side were reigning in some fine deliveries but Hughes and Hangeland were imperious under pressure.
On the half hour mark Mathijsen was booked following a crude challenge on Gera on the halfway line. Whilst Fulham had not imposed themselves in the final third Hodgson’s side could be more than satisfied with their first half performance.
After soaking up the early pressure from Hamburg, the Whites looked more than comfortable against their German opponents inside the Nordbank Arena.
In fact, apart from some long-range shots and dangerous crosses, Schwarzer was never seriously tested during the first 45 minutes. It was a fine start to the first quarter of the Team’s UEFA Europa League Semi-Final.
The only concern at half-time was Bobby Zamora, who appeared to be bravely fighting through the pain barrier during the first half. The striker returned for the start of the second half but was clearly struggling with an Achilles injury and Manager Roy Hodgson had no option but to replace Fulham’s leading goalscorer after 52 minutes of play.
US international Clint Dempsey replaced Zamora in attack alongside Zoltan Gera. Fulham were enjoyed a greater share of possession at the start of the second half as the game opened up.
Chris Baird was booked after 52 minutes, which means the Northern Ireland international will miss next week’s second leg at the Cottage.
Just after the hour mark Gera and Dempsey linked up superbly on two occasions to almost hand Fulham a crucial away goal advantage. Firstly, Gera delivered from the left flank, finding Dempsey on the six-yard line, but Mathijsen agonisingly cleared the ball away to safety.
Just four minutes later Dempsey returned the favour and set the Hungarian through on goal eight yards out. Gera was then left grounded following a challenge in the area but the Hungarian’s penalty appeal was denied.
After 70 minutes Hamburg tested Schwarzer three times in the space of two minutes. Fulham’s keeper was required to produce three instinctive world class saves after blistering shots from Pitroipa, Trochowski and Jarolim.
Fulham looked considerably more dangerous in the second half and as the tie wore on there was more promise that the Whites would catch the home side on the counter attack as Hamburg drove forward seeking an opener.
During the final ten minutes Fulham were offered more encouragement that a late away goal could be snatched. However two minutes from time Petric’s drive flashed across the area and Schwarzer once again showed his class, with another stunning save at the near post.
During the three minutes of added time Trochowski dragged Duff to the floor down the right flank and the booking that followed will rule the Hamburg winger out of the second leg.
The game ended on level terms and Fulham can be deeply satisfied with a draw following a thoroughly professional performance in Hamburg. Fulham will return to the Cottage next Thursday evening hoping to continue their unbeaten European home record and reach the Final of the UEFA Europa League.
Fulham’s dream will come down to 90 minutes at the Cottage after a sensational run all the way from the qualifying stages.
The second leg promises to be another enthralling night of European football in SW6 and Roy Hodgson’s side have the advantage of being backed by the Cottage faithful. The Whites are one step away from a major European Final and their fate will be decided on home turf.
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Date: Thursday 22 April 2010
Venue: HSH Nordbank Arena, Hamburg
Team line-up is not available.
Line-up: Schwarzer; Baird, Konchesky; Murphy; Hughes, Hangeland; Duff, Etuhu; Zamora (Dempsey 51'); Gera; Davies
Unused substitutes: Zuberbühler, Kelly, Smalling, Greening, Dikgacoi, Nevland