Hopes of a famous victory for Fulham evaporated into the Roman air last night when Erik Nevland was shown a straight red card with his side leading by a goal to nil shortly after half-time. The Norwegian forward, who had been on the field for only three minutes, brought down Daniele De Rossi with a clumsy tackle from behind, but it appeared to be a yellow-card offence at worst.
Roy Hodgson, normally the most placid of managers, could not control himself after the game. "You cannot be happy in the face of injustice," he said of referee Kevin Blom's decision. "I accept it because the referee makes the decision but I'm not happy. But what can you do but accept the referee's decision, because it doesn't change anything."
All is not lost for Fulham, however, but they must beat both CSKA Sofia at home and Basle away to have a realistic chance of going through to the next round in the Europa League. With five points, the Craven Cottage side lie third in Group E, four points behind the Swiss team and two behind Roma.
Diomansy Kamara had put them ahead in the 19th minute from the penalty spot after being brought down by Marco Andreolli. After Nevland's sending-off, however, John Arne Riise equalised in the 68th minute – with a shot that deflected into the net off his younger brother Bjorn Helge Riise – and then Stefano Okaka headed in the winner with 14 minutes remaining.
It was cruel on Fulham, who matched their oponents in the first half and who were cheered on by around 2,000 supporters in a stadium that was at best half-full.
With time running out at the end of the game, defender Paul Konchesky became the second Fulham player to see red late on after a foul on substitute Rodrigo Taddei. It looked another poor decision by Blom.
Roma (4-4-1-1): Doni (Sergio, h-t); Cassetti, Mexes, Andreolli, J A Riise; Cicinho (Taddei, h-t), Pizarro, De Rossi, Guberti (Menez, 66); Julio Baptista; Okaka Chuka. Substitutes not used: Motta, Perrotta, Cerci, Brighi.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; B H Riise (Zamora, 70), Etuhu (Baird, 77), Greening, Gera; Kamara (Nevland, h-t), Dempsey. Substitutes not used: Stockdale, Smalling, Davies, Anderson.
Referee: K Blom (Netherlands).
* Celtic's Europa League hopes are hanging by a thread after a goalless away draw with Hamburg last night. The Glasgow club are at the bottom of the Group C table on two points, five behind second-placed Hamburg.