Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fulham 1 - 1 at Shakhtar Donetsk and Move on in Europa League

This was a stunning result in the Ukraine. Fulham and Shakhtar end the game 1 - 1. More important though Fulham move on in the Europa League with an aggregate difference of 3 - 2. This tie could go down as one of the most important ties in Fulham's recent history. They now move on to the final 16.

Shakhtar controlled the majority of the match. Shakhtar had 17 corners and were constantly in the Fulham half. The difference was the brilliant defense of Fulham. Yes, that includes Stephen Kelly who played great. The combination of Hangeland, Baird, Hughes, and Kelly stopped Shakhtar Donetsk time after time. This was though a complete team effort.

The first half started pretty much with complete domination by Shakhtar Donetsk. They were constantly in the Fulham half and were passing the ball beautifully. The barrage started right from the 1st minute with a shot by Luiz Adriano.

In the 3rd minute a strike by Willian was tipped over the net by Mark Schwarzer. This was actually a tremendous save by Mark Schwarzer. Shakhtar were constantly moving forward. In the 14th minute Fernandinho had a nice shot that was saved by Mark Schwarzer. On top of the shots I can't even tell you how many corner kicks there were for Shakhtar. In the 26th minute Willian again missed a close shot that went wide. To Fulham's credit they were playing tremendous defense and they were well organized.

Fulham finally got the ball in the Shakhtar half. In the 33rd minute off of a set piece Brede Hangeland headed the ball past Andriy Pyatov. The ball was sent into the box beautifully by Damien Duff. Fulham now lead 1 - 0 and 3 - 1 on aggregate.

Shakhtar continued to control the ball until halftime. The home fans must have been shocked with the score. At the half Fulham lead 1 - 0.

The second half opened up similar to the first half. However, Fulham were beginning to control more of the ball in the second half. The first chance for Shakhtar came in the 52nd minute. Adriano's header went right to Mark Schwarzer. Shakhtar continued the pressure with Costa's shot in the 62nd minute, and then in the 68th minute a shot by Rakitskiy.

The dramatic ending to this match started in the 69th minute. A run by Costa just next to the net led to a beautiful pass to Jadson who put his shot by Mark Shwarzer. Now the crowd was really going crazy. Could Fulham hold on and go ahead in the Europa League? With a little over 20 minutes and stoppage time left Fulham led in aggregate 3 -2.

Shakhtar kept pressing forward which was leading to a few openings for Fulham to counter. Chris Baird in the 89th minute had a shot that went high off of a free kick. Then, in the 89th minute Zoltan Gera got loose on a counter and was one one on with goalkeeper. His shot went wide of the net.

We then go into stoppage time which was four minutes. Rakitskiy had another shot, but it was saved by Schwarzer. Fulham were able to eat up a good amount of the stoppage time by controlling the ball. However, just before the game ended Captain Danny Murphy was given a red card for a dangerous tackle. Fulham were playing a man down for about a minute. Then the nicest noise I have heard all season came out. The referee blew his whistle and Fulham tied 1 - 1. More important they move ahead in Europe on aggregate 3 -2.

I never thought a tie could be so sweet. Again, this was an incredibly important result for Fulham. The team and Roy Hogdson deserve so much credit for these 2 matches against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sometimes the most talented team doesn't win. Sometimes the better team wins.

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