Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fulham 1 - 0 CSKA Sofia

They should call this match the 100 years game because that's how long it felt it went on for. Being pushed back into their own half by one of Europe's backwater teams at Craven Cottage in the freezing cold, this felt like what hell would be like for a Fulham fan.
And it all started so brightly too. The three patched up players, Zamora, Murphy and Davies were all welcome presences and from the start Fulham looked very dangerous. There was one aberration - when one of the Sofia players floated the ball into the area and it bounced off the crossbar - but other than that it was a ll the home team attacking.
Gera slipped onto a through ball and was brought down in the area, with some fans calling for a red from the defender, but it was hard to tell from my seat. Up steps Danny Murphy. 1-0. Or so you'd think. Bizarrely he spooned it over the bar. The Fulham fans laughed incredulously.
I think the problem was that it was too soon into his comeback match. He'd only been on the pitch for 8 minutes after more than a month out and was probably still rusty. Had the penalty been five or ten minutes later, I believe he'd have put it away like clockwork, as usual. Maybe this game will actually be remembered as 'the one where Danny missed that penalty'. Just as long as he doesn't miss any more.
Fortunately it didn't matter as soon afterwards Riise floated in a cross that evaded everyone but Zoltan Gera coming in at the back and the Hungarian nodded home. All well and good and a positive base to press on from. Except we didn't Zamora blasted over from a decent chance and then the game seem to evaporate away. It felt like CSKA brought Fulham down to their level and then started playing better then tham.
It has to be said that had the game been refereed by the same official who took charge of the Roma v Fulham game, then CSKA would have been lucky to have seven still on the pitch. Getting back home I'm amazed to see they only had three players booked. It felt like double that. And poor Chris Baird got booked for being fouled it seemed.
Of the fringe players who got a game I thought Smalling looked composed after a few early wobbles. Riise didn't impress and Kelly looked thoroughly uncomfortable at left back. Gera operating as a supporting striker was pretty accomplished too.
Considering it's his first game back I thought Bobby Z was pretty decent, but the crowd were double quick to get on his back whenever he did something wrong even when half the time it was because he was a lone striker with three players on him. The other half were him being rusty.
Certainly when Murphy departed, Fulham lost their shape a little and at one point had two wingers playing in centre midfield in Riise and Duff, before Duff decided to be the support striker. This was not before he cleared a CSKA shot off his own line though. In truth an equaliser wouldn't have been unfair, but Fulham got away with it and now have an humdinger, winner takes all tie in Basle to look forward to. I'm pleased the final game of the group isn;t going to be a dead rubber, as I'm going to it. I can't shake the nagging feeling that I care more than Roy though.
Attendance: Me, Jarrod and Kat

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