My ears are ringing, my throat is sore, my pulse is racing and I’m physically and emotionally exhausted! Oh Fulham, the things you do to me! Tonight I had the privilege of pitch-side seats for the Europa League clash between my beloved Fulham and Juventus. Years ago, if someone had said we’d be entertaining Juventus at the Cottage, I’d have had serious doubts. In fact only a couple of years ago relegation from the Premiership looked a distinct possibility. Tonight we went into the game 3-1 down from the first leg in Italy but that did nothing to quell the atmosphere created by the sell-out crowd.
Only 1 minute and 30 seconds had passed when David Trezeguet retrieved the ball on the edge of the Fulham box and slotted home expertly to momentarily silence the crowd. I say momentarily as immediately the Hammersmith End took up the cry leading to the entire ground, trying spur the team on to give a good account of themselves. On the 9th minute Bobby Zamora answered the cry, using his strength to open up a chance inside the Juvé box before smashing the ball past the keeper.
On the 27th minute Zoltan Gera looked to be through on goal when Fabio Cannavaro made a desperate grab for him, causing him to fall just outside the box, resulting in a free-kick and a sending off for the World Cup winner. The free-kick was dispatched sweetly by Bobby Zamora and looked to be heading into the top corner, but a great leap from the goalkeeper and an excellent save prevented further celebrations.
Simon Davies then went excruciatingly close, sending the ball across the goal and slamming off of the crossbar and into the path of Sissoko who smashed the ball into row z. Then on the 39th minute Simon Davies sent the ball across the goalmouth and Zoltan Gera pounced sending the ball into the roof of the net.
Half Time: Fulham 2-1 Juventus
3 Minutes into the second half and Damien Duff tried to cross the ball, but it hit Diego’s outstretched hand inside the box, resulting in a penalty which Zoltan Gera slotted away with ease. With the scores and away goals all square the Fulham crowd could sense something special about to happen and were on their feet creating a noise unlike anything I’ve heard at the Cottage.
With 8 minutes to go our prayers were answered, Clint Dempsey received the ball wide on the right and chipped what initially seemed to be a cross into the box, but the ball looped over the goalkeeper and straight in at the far post. After the game he stated that he looked at the far post and simply thought «what the heck and tried to put it in the far post and it went in!»
The final incident of note was the sending off of Jonathan Zebina who’s frustration got the better of him, resulting in an off the ball kick aimed at Damien Duff.
Full Time: Fulham 4-1 Juventus (agg: Fulham 5-4 Juventus)
The party began, with the players doing the rounds of the pitch applauding the fans and Clint Dempsey making one fans day, by throwing his shirt into crowd. One very impressive moment of the day was the conduct of the Juventus fans, who applauded the Fulham players from the field, which showed great character on their part. The fans spilled out into Putney, Hammersmith and Fulham on a total high and as I made my train journey home I couldn’t contain my smile and it seemed this was the case for all fans in white as the songs continued on the platform, the train and off into the night.
Elsewhere Benfica beat Marseille 2-1 on the night to win 3-2 on aggregate, Standard won 1-0 completing a 4-0 aggregate rout of Panathinaikos. Werder Bremen & Valencia slogged out a 4-4 draw making it 5-5 on aggregate and seeing Valenica though on away goals. Anderlecht beat Hamburg 4-3 but it wasn’t enough to overturn the first leg result and had Hamburg win 6-5 on aggregate. Wolfsburg and Rubin made it full-time at 1-1 requiring extra time which Wolfsburg scored in to see them through 3-2 on aggregate. Sporting & Atlético drew 2-2 with Atlético going through on away goals. Finally Liverpool rose to the occasion to beat Lille 3-0 at Anfield to book their place with a 3-1 aggregate win.
The draw for the Quarter and Semi-finals will follow the Champions league draw, tomorrow 19th March at 12:00 GMT
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