Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday October 23 2009
Football can be such a cruel game. There we were just seconds away from a famous victory, seconds away from being in control of our Europa League group and bang - the dream blew up in our face with a last gasp equaliser.
At a packed Craven Cottage, Roy Hodgson made some deft changes to his starting eleven, probably with the tough encounter with Manchester City, this weekend, at the back of his mind. There were no John Pantsil, Damien Duff or Clint Dempsey in the starting line up and with Dickson Etuhu and Danny Murphy both out injured our central midfield had a strange look to it.
With the two Riise brothers in opposition for the first time of their careers the game had that 'something extra` feel about it and we were soon underway.
It didn`t take Fulham long to push Roma back, an enterprising cross from Bjorn Helge Riise had t be hastily defended by Burdisso who was grateful his clearance flew the right side of the post for him.
Roma retaliated with two half chances, the first from Chuka flew well over the bar and the second from Gruberti went wide. It had been a cracking start to the game.
Our Riise was causing the Roma defence problems with his crossing as Fulham looked to be getting on top and one adventure forward saw Stephen Kelly let a shot go that lacked power.
Roma were still trying to push forward and De Rossi fired over from the edge of the eighteen yard box. With twenty-four minutes gone Fulham took the lead. Riise swung in a corner and Brede Hangleand out-jumped everyone to head past Doni in the Roma goal.
The other Riise, their Riise, then fired in a powerful shot, from twenty-five yards, that Schwarzer did wonderfully well to save, but as half time approached it was definitely Fulham that were on top.
At half time Claudio Ranieri shuffled his pack introducing World Cup winner Perotta and Pizarro. Roy Hodgson made a subtle switch taking off Paul Konchesky and throwing on John Pantsil.
The changes seemed to invigorate Roma and the visitors started to look more creative. De Rossi saw a goal disallowed for offside and were denied a penalty when Menez went down after a challenge in the area.
Fulham were reduced to the role of counter attackers and one such raid saw Mexes deny Kamara from reaching Zamora`s cross with an outstretched boot. Doni then had to react smartly to rush out to collect a ball destined for Kamara.
Schwarzer, looking steady between the sticks, then had to produce a save to push away a fierce drive from Vucinic as Roma started to look more threatening.
The action intensified and a rash challenge, by Stephen Kelly, on John Arne Riise, saw the referee award a penalty. After the red card was initially shown to Hangeland common sense prevailed and it was Kelly who eventually walked.
With Craven Cottage fearing the worst, Schwarzer flew to Fulham`s rescue and pushed away the resulting spot kick, it looked as if we`d weather the storm. But fate held one last kick in the teeth for us!
With three minutes of stoppage time played Roma forced a corner and when the ball was floated in there was Andreolli lurking at the back post to smash home a volley off the head of Pantsil.
Date:Friday October 23 2009
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