Sunday 19 November 2017

Duff strike puts Fulham in pole position

Fulham 2
Wolfsburg 1

Jason Burt

FULHAM'S grand European tour will move on to Germany next week, to Wolfsburg, and the home of Volkswagen, with Roy Hodgson's side in the driving seat.

Two second-half goals gave them the advantage in the first-leg of this Europa League quarter-final before they were deflated, a little, by a late goal from Wolfsburg. They will need to battle hard in the away leg to go through, but the chance is there.

Hodgson had highlighted the potency of Wolfsburg's forward players and it was the trickery of Edin Dzeko and Grafite which caught the eye.

However, the first shot on target came from Christian Gentner following an intricate build-up, but Mark Schwarzer caught the ball easily.

Fulham quickly hit back with Zoltan Gera trying his luck from distance and Dempsey unleashing a dipping effort.

Back came Wolfsburg with Dzeko barrelling through only for the ball to break to Grafite but he ballooned the ball over the bar.

On the stroke of half-time a rapid break saw Bobby Zamora cleverly free Duff, who sprinted infield before teeing up Dempsey, who swept his shot wide. Again he could have done better as chances remained at a premium.

But that was nothing compared to Dzeko's miss, with a free header seven yards out in which he miscued his shot after Brede Hangeland had mis-judged Gentner's cross.

Then it was Fulham's turn to threaten with Dempsey denied by Diego Benaglio's legs.

Both sides were committed to attack and it was Zamora who claimed the breakthrough. It owed much to a raking pass by Gera, and even more to a selfless over-lapping run from Duff, which distracted Zamora's marker, Andrea Barzagli. Zamora took his cue and took the space to curl a wonderful low left-footed shot into the net.

The dam burst. Fulham poured forward with Zamora alertly holding up Paul Konchesky's centre until Duff arrived to unerringly beat Benaglio with a side-footed drive.

But it would all change with an away goal and Dzeko almost provided in reaching a dipping cross. It flew wide.

The Bosnian then completely missed with an attempted close-range header before Schwarzer held Obafemi Martins's dangerous shot as Wolfsburg threw on strikers. The pressure told and Alexander Madlung powerfully headed home from a late corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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