Posts Tagged ‘Paul Konchesky’

Hamburg 0-0 Fulham: A Tale of Two Defences

April 23, 2010

It just seems that this team is built for 2-legged European ties. Our away form in the premier league often comes under scrutiny and criticism (and rightly so) but under the bright lights of European competition it is the perfect remedy. Fulham may not play sparkling football away from home but it sure is effective. Only one European away performance can be described as poor during this campaign  and that was the 3-1 loss to Juventus.  Other than that night in Turin (which of course was gloriously rectified a week later) Fulham have been more than solid away from home. An initial draw against CSKA Sofia  with almost a complete second team, being robbed in Rome by poor officiating and a fantastic away victory in Basel rounded out a good away showing in the group stages.  A phenomenal defensive performance at Shakthar, a victory against German champs Wolfsburg and now a good scoreless draw at Hamburg added to the feeling of improved away performances. Why is it so different from the premier league? I guess that when we have a game plan (Must win or Must Draw) we are good at sticking to it. And of course Roy Hodgson is a God of European football.

As for the match last night. Not a huge amount to discuss other than to pile admiration onto the likes of Schwarzer, Gera et al. An early Baird mistake meant that hearts were in mouths as Ruud Van Nistelrooy bore down on goal, only for his composure to weaken and Schwarzer to collect the ball at his feet. Other than that chance, the first half passed everyone by with Hamburg restricted to long range shots that rarely tested Schwarzer.  Jonathan Pitroipa looked dangerous but had little end product, and other than the worryingly poor passing from Fulham there was not much of note.

As the second half started it was noticeable that  Zamora was struggling, an Achilles injury acting up and with him unable to make his usual powerful runs Fulham were unable to find an out ball. Hodgson dragged off the limping Zamora and brought on Fulham hero Clint Dempsey. Surprisingly this made Fulham much more dangerous in attack with Dempsey’s clever runs irritating the Hamburg defence Fulham started to look the better team. I noticed that now that Zamora had come off, Davies was spending a lot more time in a really central position with Konchesky making more probing runs down the left. Perhaps it wasn’t the 4-6-0 formation that many are predicting will be the future of football, but with 6 midfielders on the pitch for Fulham, you cannot get much closer to it than that.

HSV, to their credit, came back at Fulham and a couple of testing long range drives were dealt with magnificently by Schwarzer. Petric had come on by this stage but although he brought more of a goal threat to the HSV team I felt that they lacked something  without Guerrero ‘in the hole’. As the game drew to a close, Fulham looked to be comfortably seeing out an excellent draw. With the Fulham support in good voice, the final whistle blew and Fulham are one step closer to a European final. Wow.

p.s. A quick word for the Ref, who I thought was outstanding. He hilariously told players of both sides to stand up when the were tackled and kept the game flowing. All of the yellows were warranted. It is a pity he won’t be refereeing the return leg.

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Juventus 3-1 Fulham

March 12, 2010

It may be the rose tinted glasses that I can often be found to be wearing but I really don’t think that Juve were two goals better than Fulham last night. Yes, Juve probably deserved to win, but we certainly weren’t pinned back a la Shakhtar, and the game had more of an away game to a mid-table premier league side than last rounds of the Europa league feel to it. Fulham had lots of the ball, particularly in the second half, and if the defence had been up to their usual standards we would definitely still be very much in the tie.  As it is, Fulham have a mountain to climb, but we are at home and we might have Juve right where we want them, overconfident.

For an excellent match report here and here and highlights, if you can bear to watch, here.

Juventus are a huge team. The most successful team in Italian footballing history, with the largest support in Italy (not that you could tell from the crowd las night). Yet Fulham put in a battling display, even if the result was not particularly fantastic. Considering that Fulham were missing their captain and heartbeat of the midfield in Danny Murphy, our regular right back in John Paintsil, our regular striker in Andy Johnson and of course Clint Dempsey (who did make an appearance but has been out for a significant amount of time) this was a solid display. Add to this our left back only just returning from injury and it is quite impressive that we managed to go to Torino and get a goal. Two years ago we could never have dreamt of playing Juventus in the last 16 of the Europa Leauge, never mind doing it with half a squad of backup and reserve players. This is how far we have come.

I would almost say that it is a damning indictment of how far Juve have fallen in recent years, that a mid-level premier league club struggling with fatigue and injuries, could come to Torino and give a good account for themselves.

As for Fulham, the result could have been worse. We now have to go back to the Cottage and put in the display of a lifetime to go through, but hey, this is what cup competitions are for! No one thought that Fulham could beat Basel away from home, but they did, no one thought that Fulham could beat reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk, but they did. In fact no one really gave Fulham too much of a chance of getting out of the group stages, but here we are. 2-0 is not a scoreline that is ridiculous, however if they score, it is probably all over. I for one cannot wait for the return leg, the Cottage will be jumping and knowing that two goals have to be scored, Roy might just take off the shackles a bit more than usual. Whatever happens it should be a memorable night!

Player Ratings:

Schwarzer – 8    Excellent in goal, could do nothing about all three of the goals

Baird – 5    Not his best game, struggled to add much to the game

Hughes – 6     Solid as usual, but not amazing

Hangeland – 6   Again, solid, but at fault for a couple of the goals

Konchesky – 5  Looked like a man returning from injury, and couldn’t find his rhythm.

Duff – 7  Industrious as ever, looked dangerous and if the man marking of him by Juventus is anything to go by, they were worried about him too.

Greening – 5  An easy scapegoat, but had a very average performance in the middle of the park and picked up a yellow.

Etuhu – 6    Better than people give him credit for and played one great pass out to Zamora on the wing that made me smile. Oh, and he scored!

Davies – 5  A poor game. He really struggles on the left which is fair enough considering he is a right winger. Would still like to see him play centre mid though!

Gera – 6  Buzzed about and looked dangerous, but couldn’t grab hold of the game.

Zamora – 7  Worked his socks off, was persistently fouled (as per) and continuously called offside, even when clearly on. Look for him to take it to Juventus in the return leg.

Some Quick Transfer Thoughts

January 7, 2010

I love the January transfer window.  I know it makes little sense and can be dangerous for a team like Fulham, but I love the crazy speculation and overflowing BBC gossip column that awaits me each day.

Fulham have been linked with many names already this window, but the one that keeps popping up is Stefano Okaka. He is of course the promising young striker playing for Roma who is looking to move due to the recent arrival of one Luca Toni. We have already been able to catch a glimpse of him in the Europa league, and whilst he didn’t overly impress me at the cottage, he did score Roma’s second goal at the Stadio Olimpico in our highly controversial match in Rome.

I think Okaka would be a good addition on loan, especially if we have an inbuilt extension clause in the deal. He is definitely raw, but not only would he offer some competition to the excellent Bobby Zamora, he may also flourish under Roy’s tutelage. This seems very low risk and financially viable. Okaka would join compatriot Marcelo Trotta who joined us this summer so he might be able to adjust to life here more easily. My one reservation is that coming into the premier league, especially at his age, he would either struggle or not make a huge immediate impact and could receive criticism from the fans. I am certainly not expecting him to be some magical wonderkid, I just hope people temper their expectations. Extra points go to this potential transfer because Okaka is a bit of a football manager legend of previous years.

Other stories include the recent on featuring Jamie O’hara on the radar again. The stumbling block here would be the fact we seem to have tons of midfield options and a possible 3 club rule restriction. I personally would rather see us get some cover at the back as injuries have limited our options and whilst I think Kelly will settle in and start playing confidently sooner rather than later, I would like some cover/competition for Konchesky who is carrying an injury.

One final word, not so much to do with transfers: Brede Hangeland and his knee injury. I may be being overly pessimistic but I feel there is a hidden story in this. His knee appears to have flared up/got infected and there were mutterings that he has been plying through the pain for a while now. I don’t want to be alarmist, but so often with taller players these kind of injuries can become a problem. Having recently signed a new contract lets hope that he doesn’t become a player who spends more time on the physio’s table than on the pitch. I mention this because I follow the Boston Celtics and Kevin Garnett (an outsanding player) has been struggling with knee issues of his own. I know he is both older and plays a sport that is more demanding on the knees, but his recent struggles got us thinking about our very own big man Brede who does a lot of jumping himself.