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Fulham FC are well placed to reach their first ever European final after holding a dominant Hamburger SV to a goalless draw in their UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg.
After enduring a 17-hour coach journey to North Germany because of the volcanic ash cloud, Roy Hodgson's side were eminently overrun in the opening period. The hosts, however, were unable to turn their dominance into chances and Fulham remained untroubled throughout the second half to find themselves in a strong position to settle the tie at Craven Cottage next Thursday.
Despite having won just one of their last six league games, the hosts began the match in confident fashion, dictating the early possession and almost securing the perfect start when Ruud van Nistelrooy stole into the box from the left only to miscontrol. Piotr Trochowski also found his range with two long-range efforts early on, the first fizzing narrowly wide of Mark Schwarzer's near post.
With HSV dominating possession, Fulham struggled to find a way out of their own half and Zoltán Gera and Bobby Zamora were given precious little room to manoeuvre by the Germans' defence. Following a first half punctuated by misplaced passes, Hamburg again struggled to come up with ideas after the restart, though the lively Jonathan Pitroipa did manage to keep the home fans entertained with his mazy runs on the flank.
Fulham opted to replace the ineffective Zamora with fit-again Clint Dempsey early in the second period and almost caught the hosts by surprise when Gera wriggled his way in behind the defence, only for the Hungarian to get tangled up by his own footwork just metres from goal.
Hamburg's best phase of the match followed as Pitroipa's deflected shot blazed narrowly over before Trochowski's drive from distance forced a fine save from Schwarzer. Substitute Mladen Petrić twice went close late on, but Bruno Labbadia's charges remained frustrated and now have plenty of work to do if they are to return to their home ground as finalists on 12 May.
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