By Glenn Mooreat Craven cottage
The Europa League may be something of an inconvenience to certain English clubs, but Fulham rather enjoy their continental adventures. The 2010 finalists all-but booked themselves a place in the group stages of this season's competition with a comfortable win over Ukrainian opposition.
Three goals in 11 minutes either side of half-time, one from Aaron Hughes and two from Clint Dempsey, gave the London club a very useful cushion to take to Dnipro for the second leg of this qualifying play-off in six days' time.
It was an immensely satisfying victory for Martin Jol over the man who replaced him as Tottenham manager four years ago, Juande Ramos. The Spaniard made his name in this competition, steering Seville to successive triumphs. Although he lifted the League Cup with Tottenham, his career has become a peripatetic one since then.
To judge from this performance the pattern is continuing in Ukraine. Dnipro began brightly enough, showing the combination of slick forward movement and ground-passing common among good sides from the former USSR, but soon faded, while Fulham took a while to penetrate the visitors' defence. Jan Lastuvka, who made 12 appearances on loan to Fulham five years ago, was only tested once in the first half hour, by Matthew Briggs in the early stages.
Then came the deluge, and it was the impressive young left-back who engineered the 39th-minute breakthrough. Following a short corner routine, Briggs's cross was turned in at the near post by Hughes. Five minutes later Stephen Kelly laid the ball back on the right and Steve Sidwell picked out the unmarked Dempsey. After the break the American headed in the third from Pajtim Kasami's cross.
Dnipro's late rally suggests the second leg will be tougher, but Fulham should have done enough.