Fulham FC captain Danny Murphy scored the only goal as Roy Hodgson's side beat FC Basel 1893 to climb to the top of Group E. Murphy struck with a low drive in the 57th minute as Fulham shrugged off a sluggish first-half display and left Basel ruing the chances they missed when in control before the break.
Fulham now have four points at their group summit, one clear of both Basel and AS Roma. For Murphy, his decisive strike may have been even sweeter for the fact he was in the Liverpool FC team eliminated from the UEFA Champions League group stage by Basel in 2002 – this despite a goal from the midfielder.
Basel on top
A Fulham victory did not seem likely at half-time when they were lucky to still be level. Basel had not won in six previous visits to England but they arrived on a good run of form with five consecutive wins behind them – including a Matchday 1 success against Roma. They gave their noisy followers packed in a corner of the Johnny Haynes Stand hope of an early breakthrough in the 13th minute when Behrang Safari beat Stephen Kelly wide on the touchline and fed Alexander Frei but the striker dragged his shot wide.
Benjamin Huggel hooked a half-volley just over in the 20th minute and the midfielder was guilty of a glaring miss four minutes later, blazing over after Marco Streller's headed flick had left him with only Mark Schwarzer to beat. Fulham, defeated in their last three domestic outings, were struggling to find any fluency with their only threat coming from striker Andrew Johnson. He drove a shot on the run narrowly wide and, moments before the break, gave the visitors a scare when latching on to a poor defensive header by David Abraham only to lose his footing in front of goalkeeper Franco Costanzo.
Whatever Hodgson said at the interval evidently worked as Fulham upped the tempo and after Clint Dempsey had shot narrowly wide, skipper Murphy made the breakthrough. Johnson cut the ball back from the byline and Murphy delivered a fine first-time finish from the edge of the box, sending the ball low into the far corner. Basel pushed for an equaliser but Streller turned Valentin Stocker's low cross high over the bar and Schwarzer smothered Scott Chipperfield's injury-time shot to seal a frustrating night for the visitors.