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Hamburger SV put a positive spin on their failure to break down a resilient Fulham FC side in the home leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final tie, Joris Mathijsen outlining the value of an away goal and Mladen Petrić describing why they are likely to get it.
Hamburg have been drawn at home first in every knockout round of this season's UEFA Europa League campaign. Against PSV Eindhoven, RSC Anderlecht and R. Standard de Liège they capitalised, building what would prove unassailable leads, but that run ended in the face of dogged rearguard action on Thursday. Any talk of impending failure was swiftly batted away, however. "Nil-nil isn't such a bad result for a home team," said Joris Mathijsen. "
We're happy. A goal in the second leg will effectively count double for us now."
The HSV captain did concede the platform could be stronger, though the general consensus among his team-mates is that they will have more room for manoeuvre come next Thursday, on what is a smaller pitch at Craven Cottage. "Fulham will have to open up more on home turf and that will work in our favour," said Petrić. "
If we can use the space intelligently then we'll win in London and realise our dream of making it to the final."
Petrić could play a big part. Expected to sit out the first leg with a groin strain, he was surprisingly introduced 18 minutes from time – long enough to make an impression. Hamburg just need a little fine-tuning in the final third. "We needed more crosses," coach Bruno Labbadia rued. "Unfortunately, when we did manage to get down the flanks, the delivery was too inaccurate. We'll probably have it easier in England, though, because Fulham will be forced to attack. It's going to be very tight, but I believe my team will secure their place in the final."
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