Fulham FC maintained their hopes of reaching the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with a 1-0 win against PFC CSKA Sofia, whose chances of progression are now over.
Roy Hodgson's side remain third in Group E but will head into their Matchday 6 meeting with FC Basel 1893 in the knowledge that victory will ensure their place in the next stage. Zoltán Gera's 15th-minute header proved sufficient to set up a tantalising conclusion to the section. CSKA had shown little in an opening period in which Danny Murphy missed a penalty to suggest they could inflict a first European home defeat on Fulham in 12 encounters, but offered enough after the break to leave the home side grateful for all three points.
Anomalous to the rest of the half, it was CSKA who were first to bare their teeth, Todor Timonov's long-range shot dipping over the otherwise under-employed Mark Schwarzer and against the Australian's crossbar. It was, however, a first half wholly dominated by the hosts. Murphy side-footed over from the spot on nine minutes after Ivan Ivanov had felled Gera, but had to wait only until the quarter-hour mark for redemption, Bjørn Helge Riise crossing from the right for Gera to head in from close range. The goal visibly buoyed the menacing Fulham triumvirate of Gera, Bobby Zamora and Simon Davies, the latter two of whom both spurned presentable opportunities to add to the scoreline before half-time.
Such profligacy twice nearly proved costly in the 15 minutes after the break, captain Todor Yanchev and Spas Delev both lacking the precision required to convert a newfound thrust from the visitors into an equaliser. The Bulgarian outfit continued to grow into themselves as the half progressed, leaving Fulham thankful for Damien Duff's late clearance off the line to keep their European campaign alive and kicking.