Our biggest test

Monday 12 August 2002

Tuesday evening sees Fulham take on Bologna in the first leg of the Intertoto Cup final with a place in the UEFA Cup the prize for the eventual winners.

Having seen off Sochaux in the Stade Bonal last week, the Whites now face up to what Christian Damiano describes as Fulham's toughest test of the Intertoto campaign.

Bologna entered the competition in the third round and made light work of their opponents BATE Borisov.

Their semi-final encounter against Teplice served up an apparent mismatch as the Italians cruised to an 8-2 aggregate victory.

Interestingly enough, Fulham's new signing Pierre Wome scored the opening goal of the first leg.

Bologna's semi-final victory may well have looked easy enough; but Teplice had, in fact, claimed the very creditable scalp of hotly fancied German side Kaiserslautern in their previous round.

However, whilst the Italians were running riot over Teplice, Fulham were going about their duties in a different manner.

Looking back on the semi-final victory over Sochaux, assistant manager Christian Damiano agreed that is wasn't all plain sailing for the Whites.

"We had some difficulty in the first half because we were too wide in midfield, so we found it difficult to defend well. Because of this we also found it hard to attack," said Damiano.

"We had some fantastic chances in the first half, but Sochaux also pushed us very hard. We had some problems with their corners and set-pieces.

"The second half was different. Sochaux put out a stronger team, strategically it was a good idea but we scored straight away through a good header by Legwinski. Immediately after, Edwin made a fantastic save from one of their free kicks."

Of course, the story of the game was the immediate impact Barry Hayles made by scoring his first goal in European football. No one was more pleased than Damiano when Hayles slammed his shot past the 'keeper.

"It was a beautiful goal from Barry," said Christian. "I am very happy for him because he deserves it. He started playing in the Conference and now he's scored in a European competition. He always gives maximum effort so it was good to see him score."

Turning his attentions to Bologna, Christian was very serious about the threat that the Italian side will pose.

"Tactically and technically they are stronger than Sochaux. They have players like Signori and Cruz who are able to make a difference during the game.

"It's not such a big problem when we play away because we have a strong defence and the whole team works well defensively. But we need to get a good result and I think we will be able to score against Bologna - they are a very strong attacking team but we can also counter-attack.

"We have seen many tapes of them and we will treat them with great respect. They will be a good test for us."