Hodgson vindicated by second-string Fulham's response

CSKA Sofia 1 Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson claimed last night's draw with CSKA Sofia has convinced him to continue resting his big names for Fulham's Europa League campaign. Diomansy Kamara struck in the 65th minute, firing home from Erik Nevland's pass to secure a creditable share of the spoils after Ferreira Michel's half-volley from the edge of the penalty area had given CSKA the lead just three minutes earlier.

Only John Pantsil and Simon Davies of the side that played against the Bulgarian league leaders can claim to be first-team regulars, a selection that earned Hodgson some criticism. But the Fulham manager felt his severely depleted line-up, which showed nine changes to the side that defeated Everton 2-1 on Sunday, justified his faith.

"The decision to pick the team we did was made with very careful thought and was backed up by the powers that be within the club," Hodgson said. "We made our mind up early on that if we are to do anything in this competition we'll have to use as many players as Uefa allow us to. I think that now I can continue with this policy in the future.

"I don't have to worry about playing guys like David Stockdale, Christopher Smalling, Jonathan Greening or Zoltan Gera. The team showed they deserved to be selected because we played against a good CSKA side."

Hodgson was delighted with Fulham's response to Michel's strike, which came at the end of a period of dominance from the home side. "CSKA were cheered on by a large and vociferous crowd. I thought we handled the situation brilliantly," Hodgson said. "We defended excellently in the first half.

"We started to get our game together in the second half," he added. "We responded excellently after they scored. We can feel very proud that we've taken a point away from our first European game. We deserved it."

The CSKA Sofia manager, Luboslav Penev, had no complaints with the outcome and refused to criticise Hodgson's team selection. "Fulham are a good team. They were well organised and did not come here to defend and deserved their point," he said. "They obviously played a different side to what they do in the Premiership. They are more focused on the English championship.

"This is their policy and it is not for me to comment on it, though it must be said they had some young players against us."

CSKA Sofia (4-4-2): Karadzhov; K Stoyanov, Minev, Kotev, Ivanov; Todorov, Yanev (V Manchev, 78), Morozs (Marquinhos, h-t) Yanchev; I Stoyanov (Michel, 54), Delev. Substitutes not used: I Petrov (gk), Vidanov, Timonov, Branekov.

Fulham (4-4-2): Stockdale; Kelly, Pantsil, Baird, Smalling; Gera, Riise, Greening, Davies; Kamara, Nevland. Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Watts, Saunders, Anderson, Uwezu, Marsh-Brown, Smith.

Referee: D Ceferin (Slovenia).