Top Gera drives superb Fulham fightback to delight the Cottage

Fulham 2 Hamburg 1 (Fulham win 2-1 on aggregate)

You could say that the road for Fulham to the Europa League final has been 18 games and nine months but to be at Craven Cottage last night was to know that it has been longer than that – in fact it felt more like 131 years of largely mediocre history had culminated in spectacular fashion

It was quite simply the greatest moment in the life of this football club. Never mind the 1975 FA Cup final, this was the moment that this august little club on the banks of the Thames announced itself to the world with a two-goal comeback and a place among the big guns of Europe. Fulham are going to Hamburg again for the final on 12 May and this time they will travel there in style.

The coach journey that took Fulham to Germany for the first leg of this tie stands as a testament to the appealing ordinariness of this club. As is his manner, Roy Hodgson took this victory in his stride but you could hardly say the same for the rest. John Pantsil ran laps of the pitch. Mohamed al-Fayed was down on the turf as quick as he could get there. Suddenly life has changed for Fulham.

Even by the time the players came out the dressing rooms and through a late downpour in west London, extra-time was yet to be completed at Anfield. That they will play Atletico Madrid rather than Liverpool means that Fulham will be the focus of this match in England rather than their customary position of being overshadowed by bigger clubs with bigger issues.

This was Hodgson's masterpiece. He played Zamora although the striker was far from completely fit and only when he took the striker off just before the hour did Fulham, one goal down, at last come alive. Simon Davies scored a beautifully taken equaliser and as Hamburg lost their nerve and fell back even more, Zoltan Gera hit what turned out to be the winner.

It is the sheer scale of the achievement that will send Hodgson's reputation skyward. Basle, Juventus, Wolfsburg and now Hamburg have all been beaten at Craven Cottage on this marathon run to the final by a club that has never won a trophy from the first rank in their entire history. Hodgson is now the pre-eminent English manager in the game and he richly deserves that status.

He has certainly picked his moment. In the season when the Premier League's biggest beasts did not make it past the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Fulham have a clear run at glory in Europe in the final furlong of the season. They carry the flag for English football and in their attitude and style of play they are worthy standard-bearers.

For all the joy at the end, this was the kind of first half for Fulham that made you wonder whether they had finally run out of steam. Hamburg, a tidy if rather functional team, had the best of it early on. Ruud van Nistelrooy was quiet all night but the veteran Ze Roberto was excellent in central midfield.

The goal from Hamburg was an exceptional hit from the Croatian striker Mladen Petric. He was the man who scored arguably the most significant goal in English football of the last three years when, in November 2007 he beat Scott Carson to win that infamous Euro 2008 qualifier for Croatia. Danny Murphy fouled Ze Roberto for the free-kick and Petric struck a shot which beat the wall in a tight arc and found the top corner.

Limping at the start of the second half Zamora was replaced by Clint Dempsey before the hour was up. Well-controlled by the German international Jerome Boateng and caught offside on an embarrassing number of occasion this was not Zamora's best night. But things were about to get interesting.

Fulham had not even fashioned a chance since Zamora struck one straight at the goalkeeper Frank Rost in the third minute until, just after the hour, Paul Konchesky played a free-kick on the left short to Damien Duff in the area. Duff put his shot wide of the post but it seemed to re-awaken in Fulham the idea of winning this game.

With the German side increasingly willing to stand-off in midfield, Murphy was able to dictate play. His pass for the first goal was a beauty, picking out the run of Simon Davies through the Hamburg defence. Davies turned the defender Guy Demel with a neat bit of skill and beat him from close range.

The winning goal was expertly taken by Gera who also came into his own once Zamora was off the pitch. He was given two touches when the ball was recycled via Dickson Etuhu from a corner and he beat the Hamburg goalkeeper Rost at his near post. You expected the siege from Hamburg – the final, after all, will be played in their stadium – but it never came. Van Nistelrooy barely got a glimpse of goal.

For those who were there at the final whistle, this was Craven Cottage's most famous night. Not even their most famous son Johnny Haynes, looking down from a mural in the corner of the ground, ever witnessed a night like this. This was Fulham's moment and it could get even better.

Fulham (4-4-1-1) Schwarzer; Pantsil (Nevland, 75), Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Davies; Gera; Zamora (Dempsey, 57). Substitutes not used Zuberbühler (gk), Riise, Smalling, Greening, Dikgacoi.

Hamburg (4-4-2) Rost; Demel, Boateng, Mathijsen, Aogo; Tesche (Rincon, 56; Guerrero, 79), Jarolim (Rozehnal, 90), Ze Roberto, Pitroipa; Petric, Van Nistelrooy. Substitutes not used Hesl (gk), Berg, Arslan, Schulz.

Referee C Cakir (Turkey).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power