Fulham 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 1
It was a pleasant walk home through Bishops Park last night after leaving Craven Cottage.
I was so high on the adrenalin the marvelous victory had given me I didn`t need the kick a few pints might normally give me. Instead I just sat, on a bench, gazing at the Thames and mulling over what joy this wonderful game of ours gives us when everything clicks into place.
In previous fixtures in this tournament, Roy Hodgson had given his fringe players a run out but last night he showed his true intentions by fielding his big games, perhaps with the pre-match words relating to our progression in this tournament (shown below) ringing in their ears.
'Tonight we go one step further than we've been before in this tournament by playing the holders. They have a lot of very good players on a very big budget and they have dominated their league as a result. I don't know whether it helps them or us that they haven't played recently because their season has finished - we'll know by the end.'
As it turned out, despite their fearsome reputation, it was Fulham that started the better of the two sides. Inside the first minute Brede Hangeland was very prominent with two fine headed efforts, the first was saved admirably by Andriy Pyatov, in the Shakhtar goal, whilst the second was blocked by a defender.
Buoyed by the start, the Fulham faithful didn`t have long to wait before the opening goal of the game. With just three minutes on the clock a move involving Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Zoltan Gera ended with Gera squeezing a shot under the keeper.
The game continued at a pace and the next decent effort also belonged to Fulham. Zamora was fouled some twenty-five yards out and Murphy saw his free kick skid just the wrong side of the post. But that strike signaled a change in fortunes, suddenly it was the visitors who were doing all the attacking with some of their passing classified as simply breathtaking.
Jadson saw a shot blocked and then Danjo Srna saw his shot go narrowly past the post. Unfortunately, with thirty-two minute splayed, the Fulham defence was breached. A move involving Ilsinho and Luiz Adriano saw the latter take the ball around Mark Schwarzer and slip it into an empty net. Thankfully, Fulham held out until half time for a much needed pep-talk about standing off the visitors too much.
The second half started as the first had finished, with the visitors on top. But Fulham were to surprise the current UEFA Cup holders with a goal of sublime quality. With sixty-three minutes completed Zamora collected a ball from Gera and hit a fantastic strike that arrowed into the top corner of the goal with the keeper beaten all ends up. Has Bobby scored a better goal? I doubt it!
Fulham had a chance to increase their lead when a Damien Duff cross found the head of Gera but the header was saved by Pyatov. Zamora also had a chance with a header from eight yards out but it went wide. With time ticking by the visitors could have got a late equaliser but for some superb work from Schwarzer to produce a top-notch save from Fernandinho.
In reality, despite the euphoria, it`s 2-1 at half time with a very tricky leg to come over in the Ukraine!