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Fulham FC claimed another memorable scalp and first ever major UEFA final appearance after coming from behind to beat showpiece hosts Hamburger SV 2-1 in west London.
Mladen Petrić looked to have set Hamburg on course for their dream date with a 22nd-minute opener but Fulham, conquerors of Juventus and UEFA Cup holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk this term, can never be written off. Simon Davies equalised as the game moved into the final quarter, setting the stage for Zoltán Gera to fire the giant-killing English side into next month's UEFA Europa League final with 14 minutes remaining.
The thrilling finale was at odds with last week's goalless first leg when Roy Hodgson's men failed to muster a single shot on target; by contrast they had two inside three minutes here. Bobby Zamora played a slick one-two with Gera but could not squeeze the ball past the alert Frank Rost, the goalkeeper doing enough to divert the shot on the rebound past the post.
Yet if this tie was David against Goliath, a team in only their second European campaign against a side with eight major UEFA semi-finals already under their belt, then Hamburg had failed to read the script. With Zé Roberto at his industrious, spoiling best in midfield, the home roar dissipated. The Brazilian also threw in some flair, his jinking run drawing a foul from Danny Murphy midway through the half. Scourge of R. Standard de Liège in the quarter-finals, Petrić did the rest, rifling into the top corner.
New coach Ricardo Moniz, a skills trainer when he arrived at work on Monday, would have been impressed. He must have enjoyed the clean pair of heels the waspish Jonathan Pitroipa was repeatedly showing Fulham right-back John Pantsil, too. Hodgson responded by asking Damien Duff to track back, but with the obvious cost of losing impetus going forward, a shortfall hardly helped by the withdrawal of Zamora, a pre-match injury doubt, before the hour.
David had lost his most effective catapult, but not his belief and hunger. Duff went centimetres wide soon after then, with 21 minutes left, Davies collected Murphy's low pass on the penalty spot, turned Guy Demel, and fired inside the post. Hodgson brought on another forward in Erik Nevland and his endeavour was soon rewarded when Hamburg failed to clear a corner and Gera pounced. Fulham's incredible journey is not over yet – next up it is Club Atlético de Madrid.
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