Fulham FC overcame HNK Hajduk Split 3-2 on aggregate after drawing 2-2 at Loftus Road in their UEFA Cup first round second leg match. Fulham twice came from behind to progress to the second round.
Things had started badly for coach Jean Tigana’s side, as Rufus Brevett fouled Dario Srna on the edge of the area after six minutes, and they were made to pay as Vlatko Dolonga’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off Sean Davis on its way into the net.
French international striker Steve Marlet levelled the tie on the night after seizing on to a loose ball before driving home after 19 minutes, but a Hrvoje Vejic header on 41 minutes put the visitors back in front, and through on away goals if the scoreline remained the same.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Fulham won a penalty. Marlet was bundled over by Vejic in the area and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick. Steed Malbranque stepped up and shot into the bottom right corner. Fulham were penalised for encroaching however and Malbrangue was forced to repeat the trick. He duly fired into the bottom left corner.
The second half failed to live up to the thrills of the first, but there were chances for both sides to seal the tie in their favour. Marlet set up midfield player Sean Davis on 65 minutes, but he sidefooted his shot well wide.
Off the line
Marlet and Facunda Sava continued to look dangerous for the hosts, but it was Hajduk who came closest to scoring. Mato Neretjak’s far post header seemed destined for goal, only for Fulham substitute Junichi Inamoto to clear the ball off the line.
Fulham assistant manager Christian Damiano admitted that his side had needed some luck to progress against tough opponents but singled out Malbranque for special praise. "It was a very difficult game,” he said. “Split were very technically able. We are delighted to win but we needed a bit of luck at the end. Steed played very well. The more difficult the game is the more he has the capacity to adapt."