Former Glories - Fulham 1 - 2 Atletico Madrid (AET)

HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 12: Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid comforts Zoltan Gera of Fulham after the UEFA Europa League final match between Atletico Madrid and Fulham at HSH Nordbank Arena on May 11, 2010 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It was an ending you wouldn't even have wished on your very worst enemy. Diego Forlan, in a role he is now so accustomed to filling, played the part of the villain, slaying the hopes of not just Fulham fans, but a whole nation that had witnessed an adventure laced sporadically with moments of sheer inspiration from this humble, London club.

It will of course be the journey that is remembered most fondly, rather than its termination, but Hodgson's warriors can still take great solace in pulling Atletico Madrid into the enervated land of extra time. Madrid, undeniably, are the winners, but Fulham are richer for the experience and take more than just runners up medals back to Craven Cottage.

They take the memories of a campaign that has defied belief at some of its most impressive points, namely the 4-1 humiliation of Europe's Old Lady, Juventus. To highlight but a mere ninety minutes in this devastatingly prolonged season for the Cottagers, though, is unduly unfair on them, as they have fought their way through it all and come out of the end bruised, deflated, but ultimately, cherished by all.

Fulham have now hit the limelight. Hogdon's men will be known more for their combative qualities rather than their small time demeanour. The supporters will be known for their undying devotion to a side that has reached rock bottom and clawed their way back to the top, with organisation and decent, attractive football a mainstay. They never stopped singing - not when Forlan scored first, and not when he scored again. ‘Stand up if you still believe' was their chant, and not a single chair was left unfolded.

But while they may have believed, they never conquered. The Whites were characteristically bright throughout, but the mixture of two South Americans in Forlan and Sergio Aguero proved to be more decisive than any collective effort mustered from the Londoners.

Atletico, on the whole, were raggedy and yet still potent at the most vital end of the pitch. Their opponents, meanwhile, were sharp throughout, but Hodgson knew that Bobby Zamora, arguably the ignition for most of their individual triumphs in this competition so far, was not in a state to last ninety minutes. He was pulled off on the fifty-fifth minute and Fulham never really looked too threatening from then on.

Earlier, though, they were worrying the Spaniards. From the offset the game appeared lacklustre but once Forlan had opened the scoring, with fortune clearly favouring the Uruguayan, English spirit seemed to take ahold. The heads didn't turn southwards and the game plan certainly didn't change. All that altered was the tempo and it paid off with almost immediate effect. Zamora held the ball up with his upper-body strength clearly making up for the weakness in his ankle, before laying the ball to Zoltan Gera on the wing. The Hungarian, another pivotal figure in Fulham's season, floated a cross into the far post where Simon Davies met it with the most sagacious of timings. His volley flew past a flapping David de Gea and 12,000 fans erupted. Atletico came back at them in attempt to see out the first half on top, but Fulham are well acquainted with resilience and fought off a flurry of Spanish moves.

The second half brought little in the way of action. Simon Davies came close for Fulham but, in truth, Aguero was stealing the show. His close control was masterful and his vision unparalleled, but the defensive organisation of Fulham, inherited directly from their manager, was looking increasingly difficult to penetrate. As such, ninety minutes passed without a decisive goal and extra time beckoned.

Atletico looked panicky and unstable as Fulham set the pace yet, still, without Zamora leading the line, they could only hope Lady Luck would pay a visit.

That she did, but she miscalculated her co-ordinates. Aguero and Forlan connected again and, for once, belief just wasn't enough.

Their fans still sung happy tunes as the players hit the floor, but they were all heartbroken to the core. The weekly slog of Premier League football would return in 3 months' time but each and every Fulham representative knew that it just wouldn't be the same again.

They had weaved wonders this season, but defeating Forlan was just one weave too far.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Cottagers Confidential

You must be a member of Cottagers Confidential to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Cottagers Confidential. You should read them.

Join Cottagers Confidential

You must be a member of Cottagers Confidential to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Cottagers Confidential. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker