Fulham FC-Atletico Madrid: Fulham are a Valiant Europa League Runner-Up
What a momentous occasion for this famous but small West London Club. It was the first European final in their history and they deserved to be there after turning in gutsy performances throughout the competition. With the managerial skills of an old hand in the game, Roy Hodgson, Fulham have impressed many worldwide.
Roy Hodgson is a proper manager, from the school of old, but with the skills of the new, he knows what it takes to compete domestically and in Europe. Roy joined Fulham in 2007 and many were suprised he was chosen. He was employed to save Fulham from relegation and that he did. What he has done since is a testament to his managerial ability and eye for the correct player. He was voted by his peers as LMA Manager of the year.
This season saw his Fulham side play an incredible 63 games in all competitions with their season beginning in July. Many feel playing in both the Europa and Premier League would have a negative effect on one of the campaigns. However, Fulham finished a respectable 12th in the league, reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup, and the final of the Europa League.
Their road to the final was not an easy one as they beat the the defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk, the German champions Wolfsburg, the well-rated Hamburg, and the legendary Juventus.
The Juventus tie showed the kind of team Fulham have become. After losing 3-1 in the first leg in Turin, Fulham had a mountain to climb and climb they did. In the home leg Juventus scored first, but Fulham managed to win the game 4-1 and knock out the old Italian giants. Truly a special game.
After the battles Fulham had been through they still had Atletico Madrid to pass in order to lift the Europa League trophy.
The game started in Atletico's favour, and they played like a team that believed this game was theirs for the taking. A shot turned pass from Augero and a tidy finish from Diego Forlan put them ahead. Atletico continued to dominate until a bit of inspiration from Zamora led to a cross from Gera and a great volley from Simon Davies.
Fulham were back in the game, and it was back and forth throughout the rest of the match. Watching the match I really began to grasp the essence of the Fulham team. Zamora is so essential in the way they play and it was unfortunate that he was obviously playing through pain due to his injured achilles.
Mark Schwarzer is a competent and reliable goalkeeper. Hangeland is a superlative defender, heading and blocking anything in his path. Etuhu and Murphy are a great central midfield partnership, with Etuhu eating up any attacking threat through the centre and Murphy taking and distributing the ball into attack.
The game went into Extra Time, and it looked like it was all up for grabs, but Fulham were unable to take it. Aguero's creative flair in the build-up was too much for them. He crossed the ball to Forlan, and aided by an unlucky Hangeland deflection, went past Schwarzer into the back of the net.
Fulham's players absolutely earned their runners up medal and should take pride in it. While they could have had more, no-one expected them to be there in the first place and they definitely earned their offseason holiday.
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