Forlan idol forms double act to have the last laugh

"Diego Forlorn" they used to call him. But it was the Fulham players who were left forlorn last night as Diego Forlan finally blew away his comedic reputation in England. The Uruguayan took eight months and 27 games to score his first goal for Manchester United after signing for them, for £6.9m, in 2002. Although the United fans never forsook him, appreciating his limitless enthusiasm and work-rate, he was a figure of fun to supporters elsewhere and he was sold on after two years and 10 goals in 67 matches.

He has subsequently scored more than 140 goals in Spain, picking up two European Golden Boots along the way. He also scored in both legs of Atletico Madrid's semi-final defeat of Liverpool, so no one at Fulham under-estimated him last night.

Knowing a danger is one thing, dealing with it is another. Brede Hangeland never quite came to grips with Forlan's subtle movement. The Norwegian is nine inches taller, but with Atletico keeping the ball on the ground that was no advantage. For the first goal he was not close enough to Forlan when Sergio Aguero's mishit shot fell at the Uruguayan's feet. For the second he was outsmarted as Forlan burst across him to reach Aguero's cross. Cruelly, the ball was then deflected past Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal off Hangeland's thigh.

In some respects the error was forgivable. Hangeland must have been desperately tired, mentally and physically, after nearly two hours trying to contain Forlan and his equally quick-footed Argentine strike-partner. Fulham's defence has been laboriously well-drilled but they are rigid and that can be exposed by clever forward play. The Atletico coach, Quique Sanchez Flores, is not the first to spot this. The visit of Juventus to Craven Cottage is remembered as an epic night for Fulham as the Old Lady was mugged and an aggregate advantage which at one stage stood at 4-1, was overturned. Less often recalled is the problems Juventus caused before Fabio Cannavaro was dismissed. Alberto Zaccheroni, their caretaker manager, fielded a 4-1-2-2-1 formation with Diego and Antonio Candreva playing between midfield and attack. Zaccheroni later pointed out he wanted to play "between Fulham's lines". Cannavaro's dismissal meant the ploy was not fully tested.

Forlan and Aguero looked to find that same space behind the shielding midfielders, Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu, and in front of Fulham's centre-backs. They took turns to drop off, pick up possession and, especially the jinking Aguero, turn and run at Hangeland and Aaron Hughes.

Zoltan Gera is the man deputed to find the same space for Fulham. A lack of service caused by uncharacteristically poor passing in midfield, and the injury-hampered Bobby Zamora's inability to provide his usual space-creating movement, meant the Hungarian's impact was restricted by comparison. Nevertheless, he never shirked the responsibility and was involved in Simon Davies' goal.

At the other end Forlan had struck the post as early as the 11th-minute, Aguero seizing on Murphy's misdirected pass to break forward and release Forlan. Aguero might also have won the tie in injury-time when he went over Hangeland's leg after a poorly-judged tackle from the Norwegian but the penalty appeals were turned down.

Aguero and Forlan now go their separate ways, to the World Cup training camps of Argentina and Uruguay respectively. If they can find suitable partners – and in Aguero's case there is the complication that his father-in-law, Diego Maradona, is Argentina's coach – they will be a threat.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor