HNK Hajduk Split 0-1 Fulham FC
Fulham FC's debut in a senior European competition proved very much to their liking as a smart finish from Steed Malbranque early in the second half of their UEFA Cup first round first-leg tie away to HNK Hajduk Split earned them a precious win.
It was a performance that will have delighted the English Premiership side. Disciplined and ultra professional in their defensive work in the Poljud stadium, they struck out to record a fine victory, secured in the 51st-minute move that saw Steve Marlet feed Malbranque. The French Under-21 international steered his shot cleverly away from Stipe Pletikosa and the small gathering of travelling fans in the stadium began to celebrate.
Four minutes later the issue should have been put beyond doubt when Sylvain Legwinski drifted into an unopposed position just a few metres from goal. However, he allowed the ball to strike his thigh and flip over the top.
In their qualifying tie with GÍ Gøtu of the Faroe Islands, Hajduk had helped themselves to eleven goals in two games, tonight though they were unable even to register one and striker Zvonimir Deranja will shoulder much of the blame after he missed the best chance of the night. Vlatko Dolonga's cross left him with only Edwin Van Der Sar to beat, but he failed to get his shot on target.
The Croatian side came even closer in the 29th minute when Darijo Srna, their most lively forward, saw a header saved by Van Der Sar. The ball came back to him and this time he was denied by the post.
In between those efforts Fulham, taking the step up from the UEFA Intertoto Cup in their stride, erected a formidable barrier and offered theur hosts no encouragement. Alain Goma and Andrew Melville were solid and uncompromising all night long, timing their tackles to perfection even in the hazardous environment of the penalty area.
Hajduk's best period came early on as they threatened to catch Fulham cold. In the eleventh minute Dolonga was not too far wide with a cross-shot while in another worrying moment for Fulham, Mario Carevic almost found a way through, but was then booked for simulation.