Sunday 26 March 2017

Fulham suffer painful Fall as last-gasp leveller ends Euro quest

Europa League ROUND-UP

With the very last touch of the game, Fulham's dreams of progression in Europe ground to a thudding halt.

Djiby Fall's header in the third minute of added time secured a 2-2 draw for Odense and condemned Fulham to a Europa League exit in a game in which they had been coasting.

Knowing that a win would ensure qualification, Fulham began brightly, with the returning Bobby Zamora leading the line.

After being dropped from the squad to face Swansea, and with speculation linking him to Tottenham in the January transfer window, Zamora's relationship with Martin Jol remains under a cloud. His body language also left a great deal to be desired, television pictures showing him appearing to request a substitution.

Nonetheless, he remained a threat, and played a big part in the 27th-minute opener.

Kerim Frei surged down the left and delivered the ball low to Zamora at the near post. Zamora held off Daniel Hoegh and tapped it into the path of Clint Dempsey, who curled the ball in between Hoegh and goalkeeper Stefan Wessels to put Fulham in front.

Just five minutes later, Moussa Dembele was able to win the ball by the right touchline, drift inside and pick out a through ball for Frei, who slipped inside Hoegh and tucked the ball between Wessels's legs.

eliminated

With Twente drawing with Wisla Krakow in Poland, qualification appeared to be within sight. Odense, already eliminated, tried to prevent the game from turning into a procession. On the hour they succeeded admirably, Hans Henrik Andreasen curling a low free-kick around the wall to pull a goal back.

By now Wisla had restored their lead, and Craven Cottage chewed on its fingernails once more. The tension increased by the minute as Odense pushed for an equaliser.

Despite creating little of their own, Fulham seemed to be keeping their nerves and their European adventure alive. Yet, when Espen Ruud was allowed to cross, Fall scored to send Fulham out.

Meanwhile, 10-man Stoke lost their unbeaten Europa League record and had to settle for second place in Group E as Besiktas came from behind to triumph 3-1 in Istanbul last night.

With the Potters having already qualified for the last 32, manager Tony Pulis rested all 11 players who started against Spurs last weekend, but then saw his side take an unlikely 29th-minute lead through Ricardo Fuller.

Asmir Begovic had been superb in keeping Besiktas at bay, but in the 59th minute Manuel Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot after Matthew Upson was sent off for felling Hugo Almeida, and goals from subs Mustafa Pektemek and Edu secured the points.

Irish Independent

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