Date:Thursday May 13 2010
What can you say about our defeat in the Europa League final?
Disappointing doesn't begin to describe the outcome. I sincerely thought we'd win. I knew Atletico were better, but I just thought we'd overcome them anyway; just like Shakhtar, Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg.
Alas, it was not to be. There's nothing to be bitter about. There were no horrible gaffs or poor refereeing decisions that determined the outcome. Both goals may have had a hint of good fortune about them, but they came from dangerous situations and were in line with the run of play.
Our Fulham squad gave it everything they had and performed very well versus a much stronger opponent. In the end, we weren't quite good enough. I'll not dissect the entire match and each player's performance to determine where it all went wrong.
In truth, it doesn't matter. You win as a squad and you lose as a squad. A few things standout, though.
To begin, the most glaring difference in the two sides was speed. They had it and we didn't. We had trouble containing it the entire match. Chris Baird, in particular, was exposed numerous times. To his credit, he ran his boots off all night.
Unfortunately, this lead to fatigue and he was quite slow to assist Hughes with Aguero in the build-up to the winning goal. We certainly missed John Pantsil.
Regarding attack, we posed very little threat once Zamora left the pitch early in the second half. Zamora was obviously struggling from the beginning, but even so, it was his work that lead to Simon Davies' goal.
I underestimated the severity of Zamora's injury. He had success after the initial injury by simply receiving periodic rest. When he aggravated his Achilles problem in the 1st leg versus Hamburg, I assumed the same technique would work. It did not. I believe a healthy Zamora might have brought a different outcome.
I believe I've said this a thousand times, but I'll say it again - Clint Dempsey is not a forward! I know he's capable of chipping in the odd goal from that position, but when he's not scoring, his contribution pales in comparison to that of Zamora. Dempsey is an attacking midfielder and should be played in that role. I don't think he played badly in the final, but he didn't get much going either.
Nevland was lively, but posed no real threat. We certainly could've used another attacking option. Ultimately, we needed a spark, but there was none to be had.
And finally, I want to give credit to Simon Davies. He was the only real threat we had on the night. There has been some recent speculation about Davies future with Fulham as he is set to be out of contract this summer. He's over thirty and has had his fair share of injuries lately, but the goals he's scored against Hamburg and Atletico show what a healthy Simon Davies can do. He's never been prolific or special, and I don't think it wise to sign him to a long-term contract, but I think a one year extension is the least we can do considering his contributions the past few weeks.
I'll allow myself a brief moment of sentimentality on this one occasion. It's debatable whether or not one could argue that the Europa League Final was the greatest night in our 131-year history - win or lose! I certainly don't know the answer to that. Let's just hope that it's not another 131 years before our next European final, and maybe next time, we'll win it.
Well done lads. We're all proud of you.
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Date:Thursday May 13 2010
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