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It’s Forlan again!!

May 13th, 2010 No comments

phpNS5oGjFulham’s brave bid to lift the Europa League ended in heartbreak as Diego Forlan’s winner deep into extra time gave Atletico Madrid victory at Hamburg’s Nordbank Arena.

The final looked destined for a penalty shoot-out until former Manchester United striker Forlan took advantage of strike partner Sergio Aguero’s persistence to send a deflected finish beyond Mark Schwarzer with only four minutes left.

Forlan poached another close range finish to put Atletico ahead in the first half, but Simon Davies responded swiftly with a volleyed equaliser for Fulham to spark hopes of a first European trophy heading to Craven Cottage.

But Forlan, tormentor of Liverpool in the semi-final, seems intent on making up for his unfulfilling spell at Old Trafford by inflicting pain on Premier League teams every time they cross his path - and how Fulham felt the agony as their players lay on the turf as Atletico celebrated wildly celebrated the decisive goal.
Atletico created the better opportunities in a final short on serious excitement, with Forlan striking a post and Aguero somehow poking wide from almost on the goalline in the first period of extra time. Read more…

Fulham v Atletico Madrid: match preview

May 12th, 2010 No comments

phpUv6AUMThe key for Fulham  will be to contain Atletico’s obvious attacking threats, notably Jose Antonio Reyes, Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. It means that Roy Hodgson will require major midfield performances from Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu. Atletico, however, do have a suspect defence and have conceded 57 goals this season in La Liga.

Managers:

Roy Hodgson v Quique Sanchez Flores: With their teams settled in mid-table of the respective domestic leagues, the Europa League has developed into the priority this season from both Hodgson and Flores. Fulham look to have a decisive advantage in the dugout, both in terms of Hodgson’s experience and tactical acumen. Flores has endured domestic disappointment in what is his first season at Atletico following spells with Benfica, Valencia and Getafe.

Key clash:

Diego Forlan v Brede Hangeland: It is his unpredictability than can make Forlan, the former Manchester United centre-forward, so dangerous. His pace and movement are other major assets, as Liverpool found to their cost in the semi-final, meaning Brede Hangeland will need to rely on much more than his commanding aerial presence.

What they are saying:

Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores:
“They have excellent players. The physical aspect and strategy come together. We have to take some risk but not open ourselves to dead-ball situations. There are many reasons to be optimistic but we have to be careful. And we need to be courageous.”

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
“If we lose then I hope it means we’ve been beaten by a better team and not that we’ve been very unlucky or been hit by some decisions that are controversial. At the moment we’re planning not to be second best, we’re planning to try and win the competition. Whatever happens it’s been a very good season for us and we’re determined to crown that season by winning the trophy.”

Atletico captain Antonio Lopez: “We have always been a very united team. A few months ago of course we had some difficulties and the results were not the best. But we went through the stages progressively and here we are in the final.”

Fulham’s Danny Murphy: “It’s phenomenal really - Fulham are everybody’s second favourite club at the moment. Maybe that’s because of our spirit and our unusual position this season in that we’ve overcome the odds and beaten so many good teams. I think supporters appreciate good football and, over the course of the competition, we’ve certainly tried to play the right way.”

Probable teams:
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Gera; Zamora.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): De Gea; Valera, Dominguez, Perea, Antonio Lopez; Reyes, Paulo Assuncao, Raul Garcia, Simao; Aguero, Forlan.

Hodgson : I’ll do it for Bobby

May 12th, 2010 No comments

phpFV7kXmROY HODGSON revealed Bobby Robson will be his inspiration in tonight’s Europa League final with Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.

Fulham’s manager and the ex-England boss were big pals until Sir Bobby’s death from cancer last year.

Robson is the last English manager to win a major European trophy - with Barcelona in 1997. Hodgson said: “To follow a manager like Bobby Robson would be fantastic because, as you know, we were friends for many years.

“He was a great man, a great manager and it would be nice to think I could follow him.”

Robson won the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Barca. Hodgson added: “You work hard to get to a final. You know one of you is going to go smiling and one’s going to leave the field with tears in their eyes.”

Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed flies into Hamburg today for a rare away trip to mark the club’s special night.

Hodgson is nursing striker Bobby Zamora along in the hope his injured striker can start despite an Achilles injury which will require surgery. Damien Duff hopes to have shrugged off a knee injury.

Ian Wright column : Roy’s Boys can make history

May 11th, 2010 No comments

8771649LIVERPOOL’S incredible comeback against AC Milan in the Champions League five years ago is rightly considered as one of the truly great European stories.

But if Fulham beat Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final tomorrow, I’d rate it as an even greater achievement. Truly amazing, in fact.

It would be the ultimate victory for the underdogs and almost all neutrals will be cheering for Roy Hodgson’s team in Germany.

It’s brilliant that at a time when big clubs continue to dominate in the Premier League, a less-fancied team is flying the English flag abroad. It’s so refreshing and it would be nice to have more of the same next year.

Throughout this season, I have looked at Fulham’s results in the competition and thought ‘good win for them, but they’ll get knocked out next round’.

But Fulham have continued to surprise me - and probably themselves - and now they are on the brink of the greatest moment in their history.

What Hodgson has achieved is no fluke. He’s a really good manager and let’s be honest, Fulham don’t exactly have any players with much of a wow factor. Read more…

Forlan strike won Atletico 1-0 over Liverpool

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

phpd6BDV9Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Liverpool in their Europa League semi-final first leg. Forlan hit a scrappy winner in only the ninth minute on Thursday night - but the tie is far from over and even without an away goal, Rafael Benitez’s side will be optimistic of overturning the result at Anfield next week.

The Reds missed their injured striker Fernando Torres almost as much as the former darling of the Vicente Calderon missed the chance to face his old club, having also been denied that opportunity in the Champions League last season because of more fitness problems.

Benitez had insisted the 1,200-mile journey by coach, train and eventually plane - after UEFA’s insistence the match go ahead despite the volcanic ash cloud which grounded flights across Europe - had brought his squad closer together.

If only his defence had been tighter-knit in the ninth minute then they may not have conceded.

No one will ever really know whether their exertions in getting to the Spanish capital had an effect but it was a sloppy piece of marking which cost them. Read more…

Torres bring Liverpool to the semi finals

April 9th, 2010 No comments

phprzb2E0Liverpool’s  players must sometimes wake up and wonder just how a season that began with such promise has reached the home straight with them playing in the Europa League. When all is said and done, it remains Europe’s second-rate competition.

Nevertheless, Rafael Benitez and his improving team have set about their quest for a consolation prize with admirable zeal in recent weeks and last night’s defeat of Benfica has now made them clear favourites to lift the trophy in Hamburg next month.

For all that they have laboured this season, Benitez’s players have recently shown flashes of the football of which they are capable. It has come far too late to rescue their Barclays Premier League hopes, of course. The team will be hard pushed to finish fourth.

But in Europe they have found a little of their true selves and at a capacity Anfield last night they advanced to a semi-final date with Atletico Madrid on the back of some expansive attacking football.

Victory didn’t come without some anxiety, of course. It seems to be the way with English teams in European competition of late.

Unlike neighbours Manchester United the night before, Liverpool’s carelessness in conceding a goal with 20 minutes left did not lead to the calamity that for a while looked possible as Benfica pressed forwards late in the game. Read more…

Liverpool 3-1 Lile

March 19th, 2010 No comments

 noneFernando Torres scored twice to help Liverpool keep their season alive by reaching the Europa League quarter-finals with a battling win over Lille.

The Reds started perfectly with a Steven Gerrard penalty on eight minutes after Lucas was felled by Adil Rami following a fine run past four players.

Eden Hazard was denied an equaliser by a smart Pepe Reina save, but Torres chipped in the second after the break.

The Spaniard settled the tie by poking home following Gerrard’s rasping shot.

It was an impressive result against an in-form French outfit and gave England a second team in the Europa League last eight following Fulham’s earlier surprise win over Juventus.

European progression in front of the Anfield faithful was crucial to help salvage the season for a team without a trophy since their FA Cup triumph in 2006. Read more…

Liverpool 1-0 Unirea Urziceni

February 19th, 2010 No comments

php3QRa1VDavid Ngog’s 81st-minute winner spared Liverpool’s blushes as they began their Europa League campaign in disappointing fashion against Unirea Urzinceni.

The Romanian side’s defensive approach looked like earning them a draw in the first leg of their last-32 clash.

Liverpool dominated possession but were unable to break down the visitors and created few clear-cut chances.

But, with time running out, Daniel Pacheco knocked down Ryan Babel’s cross and Ngog headed in from close range.

Steven Gerrard went close to adding a second goal seconds later with a rasping shot that flew inches wide, but a second goal would have put an undeserved gloss on what became a difficult night for Rafael Benitez’s side. Read more…

Shakhtar make history

May 21st, 2009 1 comment

shakthar The last ever UEFA Cup has gone to Shakhtar Donetsk, as Werder Bremen badly missed the banned Diego in a 2-1 Final defeat.

The tournament will change name and format from next season to become the Europa League, so this Final is Istanbul was particularly historic. It’s also to be noted neither of the two clubs had ever won it before and Shakhtar become the first Ukrainian side to lift the trophy.

Werder Bremen eliminated Milan and Udinese on their way to the Final, but were missing suspended star Diego, who is on the verge of completing a transfer to Juventus.

Shakhtar Donetsk had a very strong start as Luiz Adriano drilled wide from a promising position, but he made up for it by scoring the opener. It was a classic counter-attack that sent Luiz Adriano through the middle and he delicately chipped the on-rushing Tim Wiese. Read more…

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