Fulham Fall at the last

Cottagers out of Europa League after throwing away two-goal lead and conceding in injury-time


CRESTFALLEN Fulham manager Martin Jol admitted he was bitterly disappointed after watching his side crash out of the Europa League in agonising circumstances last night, following Djiby Fall’s 93rd minute equaliser.

Fulham were cruising at the break, two goals to the good thanks to Clint Dempsey and Kerim Frei, and looked destined to gain the three points they required to confirm their presence in the knockout stages.

But an insipid second-half display resulted in the concession of two sloppy goals, the second of which arrived deep into stoppage time, which, coupled with Wisla Krakow’s win over FC Twente, condemned Fulham to an early European exit, having begun their odyssey way back in June.

“I think it is a big blow for the club but every disadvantage has an advantage,” Jol said. “In the second half our best players were probably almost worn out. They were tired.

“We were 2-1 up and then 30 seconds from the end but we did not have the cleverness to keep it in their half.

“It is awful to have a break at home with probably 15 seconds to go. It was six seconds before the end and, instead of keeping the ball in their half Sa wanted to score. And then you concede a goal from a break. That was disappointing as was the first goal.”

Knowing only a victory was likely to suffice, Fulham tore into their opponents, who had nothing but pride left to play for. Former Everton goalkeeper Stefan Wessels provided some early resistance, but the German was beaten in the 27th minute.

The impressive Frei scampered down the left and crossed for Bobby Zamora, whose cushioned lay-off provided Dempsey with an invitation to shoot first time and the American duly accepted with a fierce strike that flew past the unsighted Wessels.

Fulham’s second arrived four minutes later when Frei, who only turned 18 last month, collected Mousa Dembele’s sumptuous reverse pass and slotted the ball between the advancing goalkeeper’s legs to register his first goal for the club.

At that stage it all looked plain sailing, but when Neil Etheridge, the 21-year-old goalkeeper making his debut in place of Mark Schwarzer, who will miss the next six weeks with a back injury, failed to line his wall up correctly, Hans Henrik Andreasen took advantage with a clever 64th minute free-kick.

Fulham retreated into their shell thereafter and were punished for their naivety in the 93rd minute when Frei conceded possession deep in Odense territory.

The Danish side worked the ball up the field and out to full-back Espen Ruud, whose arrowing cross was met emphatically by the head of Fall.