Injury-time equalisers are cruel on those conceding them at the best of times, but Fulham could consider themselves particularly unlucky to see a famous victory plucked from their grasp last night after they had played out the last quarter of an hour with 10 men following one of the more bizarre sendings-off of this season or any other.
More than that, Fulham had deserved to beat Roma in this Europa League tie, which had they done so would have left them in a powerful position at the head of their group. Indeed they came desperately close to putting the game out of the reach of Claudio Ranieri's side, albeit from two breakaways in the second half, as the Italian side belatedly warmed to their task.
With 14 minutes remaining and Fulham leading from Brede Hangeland's first-half goal, one of English football's former sons John Arne Riise went tumbling in the area under a challenge from Stephen Kelly. Fulham held their breath half-expecting a penalty award but worse than that Paul Allaerts, the Belgian referee, also waved a red card – in the direction of the innocent Hangeland.
It was only after Fulham players pointed out his error that he changed his mind about the identity of the offender yet still thought he had seen the incident clearly enough to send off Kelly. So much for the Europa League's experimental introduction of six match officials, which is aimed at getting decisions right.
"On the video the penalty decision looks quite a harsh one," said Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager. "I'm not 100 per cent certain there's contact between the players – Kelly was working quite hard to stay out of the way and Riise's looking for the penalty. I can't understand really why the referee felt it necessary to make us play the last 20 odd minutes with 10 men."
As it turned out, Schwarzer superbly saved Jeremy Menez's penalty kick but could do nothing to prevent Marco Andreolli's injury-time volley from a corner which veered off John Pantsil's head before going in off the underside of the bar.
Until then Hodgson must have thought his luck had finally changed after seven meetings with Ranieri, his old adversary from Serie A days. It certainly deserved to. Now he may need to get a result at the Guiseppe Meazza stadium in a fortnight's time to progress. Basel's victory last night meant Fulham have slipped to second place in the group with five points from three games.
Fulham's goal after 23 minutes owed everything to Hangeland's determination, as well his 6ft 4in frame when, brushing aside illegal attempts to block his run, he headed over the outstretched arm of Doni from fellow Norwegian Bjorn Helge Riise's corner.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky (Pantsil, h-t); B H Riise (Duff, 75), Greening, Baird, Gera; Zamora (Nevland, 61) Kamara. Substitutes not used: Dempsey, Smalling, Anderson, Stockdale (gk).
AS Roma (4-4-2): Doni; Burdisso, Mexes, Andreolli, J A Riise; Taddei ( Vucinic, 63), Brighi (Pizzarro, 47), De Rossi, Guberti; Okaka Chuka (Perrotta, 47), Menez. Substitutes not used: Lobont, Baptista, Greco, Cassetti.
Referee: P Allaerts (Belgium).Reuse content