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Solid Servette going strong

uefa.com gives its mid-term report on Switzerland's remaining UEFA Cup contenders Servette FC.

Lucien Favre led Servette FC to their seventh Swiss Cup success back in June and, six months on, the Geneva club are still celebrating. The side's 3-0 victory over FC Yverdon-Sports ensured they would be playing in this season's UEFA Cup, a stage upon which they have already claimed the notable
scalps of Real Zaragoza and Hertha BSC Berlin.

Opponents frustrated
Favre has based his assault on Europe on a solid defence - Servette have conceded just one goal in nine hours of UEFA Cup football this term - and his players' ability to frustrate their higher-profile opponents.

Oruma on fire
Their European campaign began with a 2-1 aggregate victory over SK Slavia Praha, with a goal in each leg from Wilson Oruma, the nimble Nigerian forward. The former OGC Nice player's pace and skill have bamboozled opposition defences, and captured the imagination of the Nigerian press, who have repeatedly called for the 24-year-old to be included in the country's squad for the 2002 African Nations Cup, which begins on 19 January in Mali.

Calls ignored
But Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu has ignored the calls, explaining: "People tell me he is scoring goals on the moon and so he should be called up. Yet people forget that he has not shown any commitment to my programme."

Favre delighted
But Oruma, now in his second season with Servette, has certainly put his heart into events at club level. After a goalless draw in Zaragoza's La Romareda stadium, it was a solitary Oruma strike three minutes from time that sent the Swiss side through to the third round. Favre was delighted to see his side progress and said: "It was important not too score too early in this game, considering that the first-leg match ended goalless. The fact that we scored a few minutes before the end did not leave them too much time to fight back."

Untarnished record
Hertha were the next visitors to the Charmilles stadium and another goalless draw was hardly surprising - the Berlin side had brought with them an untarnished defensive record - but the return leg in Germany was a different story. Hilton's early header gave Servette a shock lead and once Hertha's Dick van Burik was dismissed for a professional foul the Swiss side cruised to victory, with Alexander Frei and Yugoslavian Goran Obradovic completing a famous 3-0 win.

Valencia waiting
And Servette's giant-killing heroics will be called upon again if Favre's side are to reach the quarter-final stage - their next opponents in February are two-times UEFA Champions League runners-up Valencia CF. Should they overcome Valencia, then either Internazionale FC or AEK Athens FC will be waiting in the last eight.

Free-scoring Frei
In the meantime, Servette will concentrate on domestic matters. Seven goals from Frei have helped the club qualify for the Nationalliga A's championship round, where they will pit their wits against the seven other qualifiers in the hope of securing a place in Europe next year too.