Fulham 4-1 Juventus

March 20, 2010

Unbelievable. I have only gotten round to writing up a match report now because I still can’t quite believe it. I keep finding myself thinking, wait a minute, we did beat Juventus and we did overturn a 3 goal deficit. Phenomenal.

The match itself was somewhat bizarre. Firstly, kickoff was at six meaning that there was a rush to get to the game itself. Having gotten there early, I sat with my brother soaking up what I thought would be our final European experience for who knows how long. As the clock ticked towards six and the stadium slowly filled, the anticipation amongst the fans built to a peak. By the time the players ran out, I was raring to go. Game on.

Or not. It is not easy to deflate an entire stadium during supposedly the biggest game of Fulham’s history, but Juventus did just that. A Salihamidzic cross was not cleared and Trezeguet applied a simple finish. Bugger. Oh well, I told myself, it has been fun.

But this is Fulham under Roy Hodgson, so there was no need to worry that Fulham would not at least put up a fight. With the crowd now beginning to rise from the deflation of the first Juve goal, that man Bobby Zamora struck. Shrugging off Cannavaro, he cushioned a ball suppied by Koncheksy off his chest, and powered it into the left hand corner of the net leaving Chimenti with no chance. Now it was game on.

With Craven Cottage rocking, the pressure appeared to be getting to even the most experienced of the Juve players. A smart flick-on by Bobby Zamora put Gera through, only for him to be pulled down by Cannavaro. A red card swiftly followed (slightly controversially) and all of a sudden hopes of a result gained momentum. Juventus were now without their talismanic skipper and their already patched up defence became even more shaky. Antonio Candreva, who had looked dangerous up until this point, was hauled off for Zdenek Grygera and it was advantage Fulham.  Zamora hit a peach of a free kick with his left foot but Chimenti was equal to the challenge and palmed the ball round the post for a corner. Two more chances followed in quick succession with Davies hitting the post from a free kick and Etuhu doing the same with a header. I have to admit, with both of these chanced gone I started to feel that this might be one of those days.

As half time approached, it was an excellent team move that secured a crucial second goal. Bobby Zamora (again) chipped the ball over a static Juve defence, Simon Davies hit a low cross into the six yard box and Zoltan Gera arrived with impeccable timing to apply the finish. It now seemed to me as though Fulham had all of the momentum and were going to do the unthinkable. I guess the best way to describe it is as if ‘the weight of history’ ( the arguement the Communists used to justify their movement) was behind Fulham. The guy next to me turned and said ‘we only need one more!’, ‘we can get two, C’mon Fulham!’ was my response.

As the second half started the crowd were really having an influence on the game. The Juventus players looked rattled and Fulham were taking control. It wasn’t long before another breakthrough came. Duff was released into the right hand side of the penalty area but his cross came off the arm of Diego. The referee pointed to the spot and Gera dutifully stepped up to take the kick. As the crowd held their breath, Gera dispatched the penalty, sending Chimenti the wrong way. The crowd erupted Fulham were suddenly very much favourites to win the tie. Whether this could happen in normal time was another matter.

After Gera’s goal, the game settled once again as Juventus struggled to hold on in order to force penalties. Hodgson then made the substitution which changed the match. With Juventus pinned in their own half, Hodgson brought off Stephen Kelly, who had an excellent match, for Clint Dempsey and shifted Simon Davies to right back. This gave Duff more attacking support and helped to really apply pressure to the left flank of Juventus.

But is was Clint Dempsey who was to make the difference with what can only be described as an outrageous goal.  Having controlled a pass from Etuhu with his back to goal, Dempsey turned and let fly with an angled chip from the edge of the 18 yard box.  The ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before nestling into the top corner, over the head of an exasperated Chimenti. UNBELIEVABLE. The crowd erupted as Dempsey charged behind the goal, celebrating like a man possessed. With that goal, Dempsey had just inserted himself in Fulham folklore.

Nervous moments followed as a Juventus goal would have knocked Fulham out, but it was the visitors who lost their heads. Zebina saw red for a petulant kick on Duff in the corner and Felipe Melo was booked for a similar infringement . A succession of free kicks killed the game and as the whistle blew it hit home, Fulham were through.

Amazing, Fulham had not only beaten Juventus over two legs, but had done so by overcoming a 3 goal deficit. As I walked back to the station, tired and drunk on emotion, I passed an older couple who had been to the match. As I walked by, I overheard them saying ‘March 18th 2010, the night Fulham beat Juventus 4-1, and WE were there’. I turned round and shot them a huge smile, which was generously reciprocated. I too had been there. What a night.

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