Zebina and Juventus too strong for Fulham

Juventus 3 Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

Fulham's European adventure may have outlasted those of Real Madrid and Milan but the prospects of Roy Hodgson's side extending their campaign into April look slim after running into a Juventus team that lived up to the legend.

The suspended Danny Murphy was badly missed as Diego dictated play in this Europa Cup round of 16 first leg. High-class finishing, admittedly aided and abetted by poor Fulham defending, brought Juventus first-half goals for Nicola Legrottaglie, Jonathan Zebina and David Trezeguet. Nevertheless, Dickson Etuhu's deflected away goal offers Fulham hope for the return at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

"We're not out of it yet," said Hodgson. "We showed for a large part of the game we are more than capable of matching them. We had more situations around the box but they have quality players who took their chances."

While Craven Cottage will be packed to the rafters (it still has rafters) next week, the Stadio Olimpico was not even half-full, less than 10,000 Juventus fans, plus 1,500 from London, braving the night's bitter chill. It was something of a blessing that Juve are playing here while the 80,000-seat Stadio delle Alpi is being renovated.

If the tie had not have captured the imagination of Juventus fans their players did not lack desire. The Serie A side dominated the opening minutes with Fulham struggling to retain possession. It took Juventus just eight minutes to make their superiority count. Trezeguet won a corner with a glancing header which Mark Schwarzer did well to turn away. Diego delivered the set-piece and Legrottaglie rose unchallenged to head powerfully home.

Fulham, paradoxically, now settled and should have levelled. Damien Duff, released down the right by Zoltan Gera, pulled the ball back to Simon Davies in space 14 yards from goal. The Welshman, alas, miskicked.

It was a costly error as Juve soon doubled their lead with a stunning goal from Jonathan Zebina. Picking up a loose ball 10 yards inside the Fulham half he strolled past weak challenges from Davies and Etuhu before unleashing a drive which flew in off the far post.

Fulham needed a break. After 36 minutes they got one. A long free-kick fell to Etuhu whose shot took a huge deflection off Legrottaglie and rolled in. The goal changed the match as Fulham created a series of chances, Brede Hangeland going closest to an equaliser with a header Fabio Grosso cleared off the line.

As the interval approached Fulham conceded another bad goal. Chris Baird's misjudgement enabled Diego to set up Grosso who brought a superb save from Schwarzer. The subsequent corner found its way to Trezeguet who shot against the post then, with great dexterity, hit the rebound inside the far post past Duff who should have been guarding it.

Juventus were happy to sit on their lead in the second half and, with Fabio Cannavaro looking back to his best, kept Fulham at bay without much alarm. Not that either manager said the tie was over.

"To score two goals and not concede is going to be very difficult, but I've seen stranger things happen," said Hodgson.

"I am quite satisfied, but I had hoped for more as Fulham are at their best at home," said Zaccheroni.

Juventus (4-3-2-1): Manninger; Zebina, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro, Grosso; Salihamidzic (Camoranesi, h-t), Poulsen (Sissoko, 76), Marchisio; Candreva, Diego; Trezeguet (Iaquinta, 72). Substitutes not used: Del Piero, Grygera, De Ceglie, Pinsoglio (gk).

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Etuhu, Greening, Davies (Dempsey, 60); Gera; Zamora. Substitutes not used: Kelly, Nevland, Smalling, Zuberbühler (gk), Marsh-Brown.

Referee: F Meyer (Germany).