Highly delighted

Friday 20 September 2002

What a result. What a superb result. Our first ever match in the Uefa Cup, away from home to a side with a fine European pedigree and a fanatical support, and we win 1-0 playing, by all accounts, the kind of calm, composed football that characterises the best Tigana approach to the game.

God bless Radio 5 Live for broadcasting the game. Although I was still as nervous as a kitten, at least I had the action live instead of relying only on Ceefax updates. Just as well my wife was out for the evening: she might have had a fit when Steed scored. The volume in the room went up several hundred per cent, and that was just me!

After that, from the commentary, it seemed just as likely that we would score a second as that Hajduk would equalise. EvdS was obviously on top of his game but all 14 who were on the pitch were heroes in black shirts.

This was undoubtedly the performance of the night from an English club, even allowing for a wee touch of bias on my part. Chelsea and Leeds have difficult away legs to come (in Norway and Ukraine) with only a single goal lead, and Chelsea let in a goal right at the death too. Blackburn and Ipswich drew home ties 1-1, in both cases with the away teams, CSKA Sofia and FK Sartid, having had a man sent off.

There were plenty of goals in the games involving Scottish teams. Celtic hammered the Lithuanian part-timers of Suduva 8-1 but Livingston went down 5-2 away at Sturm Graz in Austria, giving themselves a glimmer of hope by doing a Fulham and scoring twice in the last minute.

The Radio 5 commentators, John Murray and Mark Pougatch, were very complimentary to us, as was summariser Bryan Hamilton. They praised all our team for working hard, defending solidly and looking lively on the break. I would do the same, but I would also single out a couple of performances.

Andy Melville came back after being left out recently, and receiving some criticism for his play. On this occasion his long experience was invaluable and he and Alain Goma were towers of strength in defence. Well done, big man. And Abdes Ouaddou is proving a highly capable deputy for Finns, especially bearing in mind that right-back is not his natural position.

In front of them, Sean had another fine game by the sound of it, while Steed, Leggy and Junichi fetched and carried tirelessly. Bob and Barry worked equally hard up front to break the play up and disrupt Hajduk's rhythm. It was great to hear Lee Clark come on, and it seemed that he also looked very sharp.

A pat on the back too for the Spanish referee for not bowing to pressure from the Hajduk team and the crowd in the first half and booking Carevic for diving instead of giving a penalty, which has happened often enough in the past. To keep a clean sheet in a match like this was a great performance, and I didn't hear of any Fulham player being booked.

It all makes me very proud, and I look forward with eager anticipation to a fantastic night at Loftus Road on 3 October. Hajduk are said to be notoriously bad travellers, but it would still be a major achievement to win the tie and advance to the second round.

The BBC commentators talked of meeting Fulham fans who said they were on a 'Split or Bust' tour and had taken 40 hours to reach the Adriatic town from London. Their journey will have seemed well worth while; but I haven't worked out why some of the Torcida had a banner proclaiming the name of William Wallace, unless they've signed a new Scottish player and not told anyone!

It's good that the Chelsea game isn't till Monday, giving us an extra day for recovery. We are playing with sufficient confidence to repeat our performance against Spurs and get a longed-for win over our neighbours from the Bridge. The season has already brought us many moments of magic, but a win over the Blues would be something extra special.

Despite being on crutches after his ankle operation, Tig bravely accompanied his team to Croatia, and I bet he still kicked every ball! It is typical of the man that when others would justifiably take time off to recover, he's right there at the front line. We are lucky to have him and I hope he allowed himself - and the team - a glass of wine on the flight home.

I vividly recall the first match I reported on, 3.5 years ago, on a desperately wet March evening when we beat Bristol Rovers 3-2 on our way to the Division 2 title. There were two survivors from that team in Split - Rufus and Bazza - and they, like me, must sometimes have to pinch themselves to make sure they're not dreaming.

Being in the Uefa Cup is a dream; going to Split and winning 1-0 would have seemed pure fantasyland on that wet night in Bristol, but it's true and there's much, much more to come. Don't you just love every minute? Allez les Blancs et Noirs!

Roger is always pleased to hear from other fans. You can contact him at roger@smithwalk.demon.co.uk