Fulham 3 Amkar Perm 1
No one said it was going to be easy this Europa League qualifying lark!
But when we went three goals up at Craven Cottage last night, it looked as if we were almost home and dry and that next weeks trip to the edge of the world would be nothing more than a jolly jaunt designed to make sure that we didn`t concede a hat full.
Then along came a man called, Vitaliy Grishin, to put a spanner in the works with a valuable away goal for the team from the Urals. Now, we run the risk of going out on away goals if we rest too many players which will be scant reward for all our efforts last season.
With 13,029 inside Craven Cottage, Roy Hodgson threw no surprises with his team selection. New boy, Damien Duff, was on the bench. The tie got off to a perfect start for Fulham with Andrew Johnson netting in the fourth minute. The goal had the Fulham die-hards expecting something of a goal avalanche but it wasn`t to be. The Russian side defended resolutely and 1-0 it was t be at half time.
Fulham started the second half with the same momentum displayed in the first and doubled their lead just past the hour mark when Clint Dempsey unleashed a terrific shot from twenty-five yards that the keeper was never going to keep out. Unfortunately, we were then treated to the ugly side of European football when Andrew Johnson was blatantly body-checked by Dimity Beloukov. The resulting injury looks like keeping our striker out for up to eight weeks.
With Craven Cottage somewhat numbed by the Johnson incident the arrival of Damien Duff, as a 74th minute substitute livened things up again, especially as he became an instant hit supplying Erik Nevland with a pass that resulted in Bobby Zamora scoring his third goal of the season.
But, seconds later, the task became that much harder, in the second leg, when, as we mentioned earlier, Vitaliy Grishin got that invaluable away goal.
So, it`s Chelsea on Sunday and then a flight to the back of beyond to take on Amkar Perm on their plastic pitch. Fingers crossed it all turns out alright in the end.