Fulham 1 – 0 FC Basel

The first half was pretty scrappy, I thought, and Basel seemed to have the upper hand. Unlike the Sofia game, Hodgson brought in a strong squad – and probably would have put out the first team if it were not for injuries. The defence did play well, despite missing Hangeland, but the visitors did have quite a few chances. Fulham did look good on the break as well, but didn’t really capitalise on their chances in front of goal Luckily, the Swiss side did not take their opportunities either.

In the second half, the Whites came out looking a bit stronger, with more purpose. More pressure was put on Basel, and in the end it told with a well taken strike from Murphy after 56 minutes. After that, the game was end-to-end, as Johnson kept trying to run the ball into the area (and had a good claim for a penalty denied). At the other end, Schwarzer was kept busy right up to a good save deep in injury time, and Basel certainly did try to come back.

While the game was close (and Basel could consider themselves unlucky not to get a draw), the result was good for Fulham. After a run of three losses, the team needed a win, and hopefully they can take that into a fairly important game against West Ham on Sunday. Of course, 4 points puts the Whites at the top of Group E. The next two Europa League games are home and then away to Roma, which will be a tough test.

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Fulham v FC Basel on TV

Fulham’s first home game in the group stage of the Europa League will be shown live on ITV4 at 8pm on Thursday 1 Oct.

The European Tour

Fulham have been drawn in Group E of the Europa Cup, along with AS Roma, FC Basel and CSKA Sofia.

The possible schedule of games (based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009%E2%80%9310_UEFA_Europa_League_group_stage) is:

17 Sep CSKA Sofia v Fulham

1 Oct Fulham v FC Basel

22 Oct Fulham v Roma

5 Nov Roma v Fulham

3 Dec Fulham v CSKA Sofia

16 Dec FC Basel v Fulham

This is quite tough for Fulham. Roma are a good Italian team and are likely to be favourites. Basel have made it through the group stages of European competition before, and are easily capable of getting wins against top opposition. CSKA Sofia are dark horses who have been recently let back into European football after a ban over financial problems, but as the last game away could be in the Bulgarian capital, they could be a major block to Fulham hopes of getting into the knock-out phase.

As for travelling… Basel is easy to get to, but as it may be the first game might be a bit tight to organise. Rome is also fairly cheap and easy, but I’m not sure that the Roma fans have the best reputation in the world when it comes to welcoming their English guests (ie: they can get a bit ‘stabby’). Sofia in December for a Thursday night?

Update on September 1, 2009 at 19:40 – That’s what I get for believing Wikipedia! They originally had the CSKA Sofia and Basel games the other way around, and I thought that was the final position. It seems that games were moved to avoid clashes with other teams in the same city / country.

So now I have the choice between a hastily arranged trip to Bulgaria, or a jaunt out to Switzerland just before Christmas. The second option seems to be better – it could either be the swansong of Fulham’s campaign, or the glorious night that we celebrate them reaching the knockout rounds…