Friday, 19 February 2010
Fulham 2 -1 Shaktar Donetsk
I was surprised at the strength of the team Hodgson put out, especially with high flying Birmingham coming on Sunday, but as soon as I realised Gera would be playing as a support striker I made my way to the ridiculously ramshackle Ladbrokes booth, which for once didn't have a cast of thousands queuing in front of it, and stuck a fiver on him to score the first goal at 8/1. I didn't expect it to happen that quickly though! Gera has played exceptionally well in that position, especially in Europe, and tonight was no different. But having seen a replay, the goalie should have done far better.
However this just riled Shaktar, who have a horrible sub-Hull City kit. The next 43 minutes was all the visitors. They must have had 70 per cent possession at least. The strange formation meant that when the ball broke to Murphy or Etuhu, there were five Shaktar players around them and this basically nullified their threat. Etuhu in particular was very poor, giving the ball away needlessly when he did win it or going constantly backwards when found with a pass. Meanwhile the Ukrainians, with a Brazilian 'front five' calmly pinged the ball to each other. The good thing for Fulham was that this was mainly occurring in front of the solid back four, with Duff and Davies doing sterling work helping out the full backs when needed. The one time that Shaktar did get behind the defensive line, partly due to Hughes' poor decision to step up to try and catch Adriano offside, Shaktar scored a deserved equaliser. During the game, Adriano's angled run made it look like Kelly was at fault, but he was mainly blameless for the goal and all match was reasonably solid. Far better than his recent appearances anyway.
Somehow Fulham got to half time without conceding again. But the second half began in the most peculiar fashion. Shaktar again dominated possession for the first ten minutes of the half, but didn't do anything with it. They just passed it among their defenders around their own penalty area. It was like watching old matches featuring Liverpool from the 1980s before the backpass rule was introduced. They were content with their away goal and didn't want the scoreline to change much, so wasted a bit of time. Either that or they were trying to somewhat childishly trying to draw Fulham forward in order to create room behind them. They should know better than to try that against a team drilled by Roy Hodgson. They were fleet on the break though and a few times after Fulham had enjoyed half chances they shot up the other end and won corners. It's hard to want the team to push on when there's that kind of sucker punch lurking behind.
I did think that Gera should have dropped deeper to help out the struggling midfield a bit or that Davies and Duff should switch wings to try some crosses instead of having to continually cut inside, which Shaktar were well prepared against.
It began to resemble a more even football match after that though and Fulham even enjoyed some possession without doing much with it. Then BANG. Zamora ran onto the ball with a little bit of space on the edge of the area and absolutely twatted it. I thought he'd easily cleared the bar, but instead it had bounced down from it into the back of the net. Absolutely incredible. And not at all deserved. But who cares? He should have got another with a far post header, but contrived to push it wide. Maybe next week, Bobby?
Will 2-1 be enough? Probably not. Shaktar seem to have a habit of winning 2-0 at home in Europe and they are a considerably talented side. But many wrote off Fulham's chances (ie me) when they needed an away win in Basel. Roy's team is capable of anything.
Attendance: Me, Jarrod, Loz & Nicky