Jol desperate to put good spin on Fulham's exit


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The Independent Football

Martin Jol attempted to put a positive spin on Fulham's prospects after their untimely midweek exit from the Europa League. The Dutch manager is hoping that his players' Premier League form at least will benefit from their disappointing 2-2 draw with Odense, and said: "It is awful to go out of the competition in the way we did but hopefully we will gain something from the fact that we don't have to play these Thursday matches."

The Cottagers crashed out of Europe on Wednesday night after the Odense substitute Djiby Fall levelled the scores deep into stoppage time. Wisla Krakow finished second in Group K as a result and earned the second qualifying slot.

Jol added: "I think it is a big blow for the club but every disadvantage has an advantage. There were positive things in the first half, like how much we put them under pressure, and the players that made the difference, like [Kerim] Frei with a cross and a goal.

"In the second half our best players were probably almost worn out. They were tired. It is probably the 30th game for a few of them – and that is not an excuse because we are a team that can defend a lead. We were 2-1 up and then 30 seconds from the end we did not have the cleverness or experience to keep it in their half."

The Londoners' safe passage seemed all but secured at the interval after two goals in four first-half minutes through Clint Dempsey and Frei. But Fulham capitulated in the second period as Hans Henrik Andreasen's low free-kick and Fall's last-gasp header saw them drop out of the competition.

"We had so many players in there that wanted to do well," Jol said. "Bairdy [Chris Baird], [Marcel] Gecov, Kerim Frei and even Mousa Dembélé did everything in the first half. At the back, Aaron Hughes got his chance again so they were passionate to do well.

"It was more that we could not pressurise them in the second half and they scored pretty quickly to make it 2-1. And, of course, you are caught in two minds whether to hold back or look for the third one. That is always a problem in football."

Fulham's exit capped a bad day for Jol, who earlier saw goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer ruled out for up to six weeks after suffering a compression injury to his thoracic spine. But while Jol left Craven Cottage deflated, Odense manager Henrik Clausen was a happy man.

"I have to say Fulham looked very sharp in the first half and we had trouble with their deep balls and play down the middle," he said. "But without doing that much different in the second half and scoring through the only two real chances we had, we managed a draw."

Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain also crashed out of the Europa League, a costly exit for the ambitious French club which increases the pressure on coach Antoine Kombouare. PSG grabbed two goals in the last five minutes at Parc des Princes to beat Athletic Bilbao 4-2, but it was all for nothing as Salzburg won 3-2 at Slovan Bratislava to join Bilbao as Group F's qualifiers for the last 32.

"It's very disappointing," said Kombouare. "But when your qualification comes down to one game and your destiny is no longer in your own hands, then things become difficult."