Zamora out of blocks early to help Fulham maintain their European push
Published 09/04/2010 | 05:00
Whatever happened in Lower Saxony last night, Roy Hodgson had declared, this was a season of pride. Now that pride will have swelled further.
Fulham are in the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they will face Hamburg, driven there through the power and threat of an exuberant Bobby Zamora, who is playing like a man on a mission.
And it took less than a minute at the VW Arena for Zamora to assert himself.
From the kick-off Fulham attacked and they gained an instant reward with Zoltan Gera shaping to shoot on the edge of the penalty area only to then feint and slide a pass to Zamora whose drag-back wrong-footed Jan Simunek before he swept the ball low into the net beyond the dive of Diego Benaglio. Precisely 21 seconds had elapsed.
Wolfsburg were vulnerable. Rocked. And soon after, Gera met Damien Duff's cross to bounce a header goalwards that Benalgio had to stretch to tip away.
The German side needed to respond and they certainly carried an attacking threat but it was a horribly loose pass by Danny Murphy that led to a low shot by Christian Gentner which Mark Schwarzer bundled away.
Grafite headed the corner over and then, after the Fulham 'keeper had alertly blocked Andrea Barzagli's fierce drive, the Brazilian turned in the rebound only to be rightly pulled up for offside.
Back came Fulham and Zamora inadvertently got in the way of Gera's shot and Benaglio spilled Murphy's skimmer.
The introduction of Ashkan Dejagah made a difference and Aaron Hughes had to quickly step in at the near post to prevent Grafite from reaching his cross, while the substitute had Schwarzer scurrying as he threatened to reach another through ball.
There was greater urgency but, in truth, Fulham were enjoying a degree of control they could not have imagined achieving. But suddenly Wolfsburg broke and Edin Dzeko had a sight at goal, only to be marshalled away by Hughes as he ran into the area.
Schwarzer then tipped away Dzeko's volley before Benaglio denied Simon Davies from Duff's lob. But Davies should have scored as should Murphy when, soon after, the ball broke to him from Paul Konchesky's cross -- only for Barzagli to clear off the line.
Then Dzeko struck a post, the rebound fell to Grafite and somehow Brede Hangeland back-heeled it out. Fulham would not concede. (© Daily Telegraph, London)