Fulham's extraordinary season took another twist as they secured their place in the semi-finals of the Europa League with a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg in Germany last night.
Bobby Zamora's 19th goal of the season after just 21 seconds secured a 3-1 aggregate success after a disciplined performance from Roy Hodgson's side. The German champions rarely threatened Fulham, who will now face Hamburg for a place in the final. Zamora was a constant threat and his performance was even more impressive, given that he had been a doubt before the game with an Achilles injury.
"I'm delighted with the performance, it's very strong to come here and win 1-0 in a game we had control over for long periods," Hodgson said. "With a bit more energy we could have increased the score because we had so many chances towards the end, but 1-0 is always a good score.
"You get your goals when you get them and Bob did ever so well, his combination with [Zoltan] Gera was magnificent and meant they had to get three to win the tie," he added.
Hodgson had stressed the need to pressure Wolfsburg early on and his side obliged by taking the lead after just 21 seconds. Gera laid the ball off to Zamora, who performed a clever turn to shrug off Jan Simunek on the edge of the box and beat goalkeeper Diego Benaglio with a calm finish.
The early goal seemed to settle any nerves and Fulham could have had a second six minutes later but Gera was denied by a great save from Benaglio. A rare error from captain Danny Murphy allowed Christian Gentner in at the other end but his shot was tipped around the post by Mark Schwarzer.
Wolfsburg struggled to get a grip on proceedings in an up-tempo game but thought they had equalised in the 12th minute before Grafite's effort was ruled out for offside.
Highly rated Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea, reminded Fulham of the threat he posed by flicking on a dangerous Zvjezdan Misimovic corner across the box in the 29th minute.
The Wolfsburg manager, Lorenz Gunther Kostner, replaced defender Peter Pekarik with Ashkan Dejagah 10 minutes before half-time and the striker almost made an immediate impact but his dangerous low cross was cut out by Aaron Hughes.
Fulham went close to sealing the win just before the hour when Murphy's clever chip played Zamora through, but the striker's first touch let him down and Benaglio came out to stifle his tame shot.
Kostner threw on the former Newcastle player Obafemi Martins, leaving Wolfsburg with four strikers on the pitch. Some of the home supporters began to leave with 20 minutes left as Wolfsburg continued to waste possession. However, Dzeko then forced Schwarzer into a brilliant one-handed save with a volley from the edge of the box.
The visiting fans, sensing victory, chanted "Zamora for England" before the striker had a headed goal ruled out for offside with 15 minutes left. Fulham had a golden chance to seal the win with 10 minutes left but Murphy's shot was cleared off the line by Barzagli. Brede Hangeland then scrambled back to clear Grafite's shot off the line after he reacted quickest to Dzeko's shot that had rebounded off a post.
Wolfsburg (4-4-2): Benaglio; Pekarik (Dejagah, 35), Simunek (Rever, 76), Barzagli, Schafer; Riether, Josue, Gentner (Martins, 62), Misimovic; Grafite, Dzeko. Substitutes not used: Lenz (gk), Hasebe, Johnson, Schindzielorz.
Fulham (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Murphy, Etuhu, Duff, Gera (Nevland, 82), Davies (Riise, 86); Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Kelly, Smalling, Greening, Dikgacoi.
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary).
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