After coming off the bench to score the winning goal and complete a remarkable four-goal comeback to take Fulham FC into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League at the expense of Juventus, Clint Dempsey praised the "great character" of his side.
Fulham gave an extraordinary performance to turn the tables on their venerable visitors, recovering from both a 3-1 first-leg deficit and the setback of a second-minute goal by David Trezeguet to score three times and level the tie on aggregate. With eight minutes left substitute Dempsey then guided a sumptuous chip into the far corner to send the home supporters into delirium.
"When I got the ball I was wondering whether to shoot it or try to dink it towards the far post but it came into my mind to go for it," said the United States international. "So I just went with it. Nine times out of ten I don't think I'd have hit it as well as I did, but I'm happy that it went in and it's great to be back."
Dempsey only returned to first-team action after two months out with a knee ligament injury last week but if the 27-year-old enjoyed a memorable winner, his team-mates were just as worthy of the headlines. "This is a team that has a great character and a lot of heart," he added. "After conceding early I think everybody counted us out but there's something about playing at the Cottage that makes us create chances. I've been here three years and that's the loudest crowd I've ever heard the crowd. I guess that the Europa League brings out the best in the fans, too."
It also brought the best out of Bobby Zamora, who scored a ninth-minute equaliser, and Zoltán Gera, who struck either side of half-time. "I'm delighted, over the moon," Zamora told UEFA.com. "Their goal was a kick in the teeth but at home we've got a chance against anyone. It was brilliant to score. That was one of the first things to pop into my head; to score in a massive game at home against Juventus is lovely. It's definitely one of the biggest games of my career."
Gera will also treasure sweet memories after making it 2-1 by turning in Simon Davies' 39th-minute cross and keeping his cool to level the tie on aggregate from the spot three minutes after half-time. "It's one of the best matches I've ever played in because in the second minute we went 1-0 down but we showed fantastic character," the Hungary midfielder told UEFA.com. "We refused to give up, gave everything and deserved to win 4-1. It's a fantastic achievement because we were playing against a very, very good team."
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