Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Thursday May 13 2010
And so the fairy tale ride came to an abrupt end, courtesy of a dramatic extra time winner from Diego Forlan.
But what a ride it`s been and those who have been lucky enough to participate in it will recall it for ever.
A packed Nordbank Arena held the largest Fulham away following in our history and they would have been cheered to hear the news that both Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff had been passed fit to play.
One surprise in the starting eleven though was the appearance of Chris Baird, at right back, instead of John Pantsil. Nevertheless, the noisy Fulham support were up for it and the noise from both sets of fans made it a great atmosphere.
Fulham got the action underway but it was the Spanish side that was to have the better of the opening exchanges. As early as the 7th minute Garcia saw a shot that was deflected for a corner that was eventually cleared by Hangeland.
Schwarzer was then forced to punch away a dangerous looking cross from Reyes, under pressure. Fulham, trying to ease the pressure, were foiled by the offside flag on two occasions when Zamora strayed beyond the last man.
In the 12th minute Fulham had a narrow escape after Murphy carelessly gave the ball away when Forlan hit the outside of the post. Etuhu then fouled Ujfalusin and Reyes forced another save from Schwarzer.
Fulham`s first shot, from Gera, after our best move of the match so far, flew over the bar. For the first time, Fulham were in the ascendancy and Davies forced a good save out of the keeper with a smart volley.
Forlan then fired over after a weak defensive header had presented him with an opportunity before a Dominguez header, at the far post, was saved well by Schwarzer.
In the 32nd minute though Atletico took the lead when a Fulham attack broke down and a counter attack was launched, Aguero scuffed a shot but Forlan netted, from close range with the inside of his right boot. But was he offside?
Fulham responded well to going behind and six minutes later were level. Zamora produced a piece of magic to bamboozle the defence but with the ball running away from him it had to be worked to the far post where Davies was lurking to volley home.
With the scores level Atletico forced five consecutive corners as half time approached but the Fulham defence coped well with only the fifth forcing Schwarzer into a save when he turned a shot from Forlan around the post.
Half time and all square in the Nordbank Arena.
If Atletico had shaded the first half, then Fulham started the second half in far better shape. Neither manager had made any alterations to their starting elevens and Fulham, unlike the first half, were pushing Atletico back with a decent spell of possession.
A dangerous Duff cross was headed clear and when Gera beat the offside trap the Atletico keeper, De Gea, did well to threat the Hungarian, although credit must also be given to Murphy for the sublime through ball.
Madrid responded with Reyes drilling a shot wide before Hodgson decided Zamora`s injury was hampering him too much bringing on Clint Dempsey after fifty five minutes.
Fulham continued to look the better side and Davies forced another save from De Gea before an effort from Duff drifted wide. Dempsey won a corner but the keeper acrobatically punched the ball clear and as the final drifted towards extra time a free kick from Murphy hit the wall after Gera had been fouled.
Full time and still all square, extra time beckoned.
Fulham got the first period underway and Davies fired wide from a long way out before Jurado fired well over for Madrid. It was starting to be a cagey affair but tiredness began the Madrid supporters thought they`d scored when a shot from Aguero hit the side netting.
Extra time, first period over, still all square.
Madrid got the second period of extra time underway and it was beginning to look as if penalties were the only option. Forlan fired over on the turn before, with only four minutes left, disaster hit Fulham.
Aguero, who had been a class act all night, found the ex-Manchester United striker and from close range his shot gave Schwarzer no chance. There was nothing left, after 63 games, in the Fulham tank and it was the Spanish side that lifted the Europa Trophy high into the Hamburg night sky.
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Date:Thursday May 13 2010
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