Fulham win 5-4 on aggregate.
Who’d have thought this would be happening after last week? Or five minutes into tonight’s match even?
The past few weeks have not been brilliant for the Whites, with 0-0 draws away to Hull in the League and at home to Spurs in the FA Cup. The game at Turin was characterised by fairly poor defending from Fulham – each of the Juve goals came from errors. Even the away goal was a but of a fluke, with Etuhu’s shot going well wide before spinning and bobbling off a defender.
But for the home leg, even after the conceded goal early on, Fulham never gave up, getting one back within minutes with Zamora allowed space in the middle of the box to slot one in. The Juventus defence seemed to rely more on shirt-pulling and holding than on legal methods, but the officials seemed oblivious to several clear penalty offences. Even so, Fulham got two key decisions perhaps unfairly in their favour – Cannovaro was sent off for a foul that was marginal and was not at a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and Diego gave away a penalty through handball at very close range (mind you, I think this was an ok call, as he did go in with his hand moving up and out). Still, Fulham hit the woodwork twice in the first half, and were making use of the extra man.
Zamora had an outstanding game, setting up the second goal with a deft chip to Davies who was able to put it across for Gera to knock in from 4 yards. Gera also took the penalty from Diego’s handball that put the tie level.
The latter part of the second half was in danger of petering out a bit, as Juventus pulled back and tried to defend, hoping for a chance on the break (pretty much textbook Italian play). But when Dempsey came on as an attacking change for Kelly, the pace of the Fulham team did lift, and the American – who was at one point thought to be injured for the season – was in a great position to score the winner. And it was a classic goal, a deft chip past the keeper into the corner. He’s going to be a bit of a handful if he plays like that in the World Cup.
Juventus were the better team by far last week. But Fulham excelled tonight, and Juve were their own worst enemy. My head is still spinning. Two years ago we were dead certs for relegation, and now we’re in the Quarter Finals of a major trophy.