Hodgson hails Fulham character

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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson saluted the hunger that has swept Fulham into the Europa League final with last night's 2-1 victory over Hamburg.

Once again the Cottagers had to stage a spirited fightback to continue an epic European adventure that started in July and has spanned 18 matches.

Mladen Petric's stunning 30-yard free-kick gave Hamburg a 22nd-minute lead but Fulham responded with second-half goals from Simon Davies and Zoltan Gera.

Davies' finish was magnificent with the Welsh midfielder collecting a clever lob from Danny Murphy before showing two great touches to fend off Guy Demel and rifle home.

Atletico Madrid await in the final in Hamburg on May 12 and Hodgson is amazed by the stamina that has set up the biggest match in the club's 131-year history.

"It was a great performance because it would have been so easy for us to lose our heads after the great goal they scored," said Hodgson.

"I thought we were good value for our victory and the character of this team has been proved time and time again.

"Normally success softens you and makes you less determined but that hasn't been the case with this team throughout this season.

"It's been an amazingly long season yet watching the players run around in the second half it didn't look as though we'd played 59 games this season.

"We're in the final because we've played very, very well throughout and knocked out some very difficult teams, not least Hamburg.

"It's been a wonderful journey that I'm really proud of. The team have produced better football than we're entitled to ask of them.

"To have reached a Europa League final - and I don't care if you're Fulham or one of the top four - is an outstanding achievement."

Hodgson hopes Bobby Zamora will be available for the final after Fulham's top scorer, who passed a late fitness test on his Achilles injury, limped off in the 58th minute.

"The injection we gave him worked quite well but he was beginning to feel the effects in the second half," he said.

"Now we have two weeks to get him fit for the final. The problem will exist until he gets more treatment on it.

"But if I rest him for one or two of the league matches perhaps he will be fit for the final."

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