It shows how far the team has come in a few years that Fulham are disappointed to be coming away from a match against Italian giants Roma with just a draw, but that is what has happened tonight. Had Fulham managed to hold out for another 10 seconds then they would have recorded a famous victory in unlikely circumstances. But an improbable finish right at the death from Roma's full back unluckily found its way past Schwarzer via John Paintsil's head, when the Italians couldn't even get past the big Aussie keeper with a generous penalty.
First thing's first. Arriving at the ground 10 minutes before the game there was already a buzz but the situation around our seats was very, very strange. In the rows both in front and behind us were a massive group of deaf teenagers, most of which were donned in the same Fulham FC weatherproof jackets. If that wasn't surreal enough, anyone who wasn't part of that group sat around us were Italian, ostentatiously wearing Fulham scarves. Were these Roma fans who couldn't get tickets in the away end or Italian football fans interested in watching their compatriots? I only got a small inclination that it was the former. It certainly wasn't like a typical game though and this is before it has even kicked off!
I don't know how strong Roma's starting 11 were, but only five of Fulham's could be deemed 'first XI'. Not that you could tell in the first half as Fulham set a quick tempo and provided more attacking impetus than in most of the other home games put together this season. When Hangeland nodded in Riise's (7th) corner it was no more than the home side deserved.
I can only assume that several of Roma's players were so entranced by the beauty of Craven Cottage that they are keen to play here more often. So keen were they to get into a Fulham shirt that they were trying to take them off the back of the players during the match. I've never seen a side engane in so much cynical shirt pulling. They could have one of their own if they stop off in the club shop.
The second half had far more of an Italian flavour as Fulham played far too deep considering Roma didn't appear to have a great deal of pace upfront. Still the home side might have scored on the break had a quick half time shower had not made the ball zip along the now slick pitch.
The penalty, when it came, was down the other end, so hard to see. We could see the Roma player (their Riise) go down theatrically though and the ensuing rumble around the ref and the penalty ref. The roars that met Schwarzer's impressove penalty save would have buoyed poor Stephen Kelly who had played well until the red card, but it did still mean backs against the wall for the last 20 minutes. As seems to happen at Fulham, they just couldn't hold on and a 90+3 equaliser, after a stingy three minutes if injury time was shown, is a sickener. Imagine what might have happened had the first XI been playing?
Attending - Me & Jarrod