CSKA Sofia 1 – 1 Fulham FC

It was a night for experimentation. Roy Hodgson made nine changes to the team that beat Everton on Sunday to create the line up for tonight. Only Stockdale (who stood in for the first-choice keeper at the weekend) and John Pantsil remained. However, Kamara, Gera, Greening, Nevland and Riise are good players who should be competing to be in the first team. I wonder if Hodgson’s strategy is to field essentially two different teams over the next few months. Certainly that would reduce the effect of tiredness, but it would also mean that he has more to do in terms of training and management.

The other experiment is the two extra “referee’s assistants”, who are behind the bylines. Presumably they are there to check for events near the goalmouth. But there are now six match officials, with the ref, two assistants (who used to be called linesmen) and the “4th official” who looks after the dugouts and holds up the electronic board. That’s over half a football team! I’m not sure more people is a better way to go.

I missed most of the first half, as I had to stay later than I’d hoped at work. Just as well, really, it sounds like it was quite boring, with a few chances and only one shot on target.

The second half started fairly brightly, but CSKA went ahead after about 15 minutes through a goal from Michel Platini (no, not that one, a Brazilian lad called Michel Platini Ferreira Mesquita). Fulham almost immediately equalised as Diomansy Kamara scored after a lucky bounce that took him and the ball past the keeper on the edge of the box. After that the game was pretty open, and there were chances from both teams.

Stockdale, who had a good game against Everton, did well to save a Todorov strike later on in the game. It was a surprise to see him come in in preference to last season’s reserver goalie, Pascal Zuberhuhler (who may have worked under Hodgson at Zurich Grasshoppers in 1999 before moving to FC Basel – the Whites’ next Europa Cup opponents). It seems to have paid off.

A draw away is a good result. With Basel beating Roma 2-0, a win in the next home game would put Fulham in a strong position in the group.

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