Fulham beat Wolfsburg yesterday 2 - 1 at Craven Cottage in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the Europa League. It was a pretty even first half with no scoring. The second half brought 2 goals by Fulham. They were scored by Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff. Alexander Madlung scored a late goal for Wolfsburg. This was a game in my opinion that Fulham deserved to win. However, the away goal by Madlung helps Wolfsburg's cause going into the second leg.
In reviewing the match I like to go back each game to my "keys" to see if they were factors in the game. Before I dive into the "keys", the one thing I can tell you is that Edin Dezeko did play for Wolfsburg. I now see why he is so highly touted as a player. There is no question he will be someone that Roy Hogdson's Fulham squad will need to contain next week. With all that said, below is my Analysis of My 5 Keys to Victory for Fulham against Wolfsburg.
1. Fulham need to minimize the away goals and keep a clean sheet if possible. This key I put down as being more about the overall picture regarding the 2 legs. Giving up an away goal would make it harder on Fulham in the second leg. Well, for almost the entire game they kept a clean sheet. With the pressure that Wolfsburg were putting on Fulham you could see that a goal could be coming. Unfortunately for Fulham, Madlung scored a goal that got past Mark Schwarzer. Since they only gave up one goal they still have a decent chance in the second leg. It just should have been easier if they did not give up that goal. Fulham can move on to the semi-finals with either a win or a tie.
2. Whether Edin Dzeko plays or not the Wolfsburg strikers need to be contained. Dzeko did play and was very impressive to me. He did not score, but he was around the ball frequently. He is big and strong. He also has some extreme skills. He has that combination that makes him a great player. For the most part Fulham did contain him. He did not score. He did seem though to give Hangeland trouble at times. Grafite was another player that had a couple good scoring chances. Fulham's defense again contained him as well. Obafemi Martins, formerly of NewCastle United did come in as a substitute. He did have his moments, but could not get that goal. In this "key"I have to say that Fulham were successful.
3. What position will Chris Baird play tomorrow? I was really wrong about this key. Chris Baird only played as a substitute late in the game. He came in for Danny Murphy in the 86th minute. I thought the midfield was solid with Dickson Etuhu and Danny Murphy. The surprise for me was Simon Davies was actually the player I should have had as to what position he would play. Instead of being on the left side of the midfield he was at right back. He did a solid job. This position change is another example of how great Roy Hogdson uses his roster. He moves players to fit a need for the team.
4. Fulham need to control the midfield and limit Wolfsburg's Zvjezdan Misimovic. I think Fulham did a good job in the midfield. I think both sides had their control and posession. Misimovic for the most part did not hurt Fulham until the end of the game. He set a nice cross into Madlung who scored the goal for Wolfsburg. This goal came off of play around a corner kick. Again for the most part Fulham did succeed in this key.
5. Fulham need to take advantge of an average Wolfsburg defense. Fulham, in my opinion did take advantage of the Wolfsburg defense. The first goal by Bobby Zamora was a great strike. The second goal was some great passing from Fulham. Paul Konchesky sent in a pass to Bobby Zamora. He then sent a nice pass to Damien Duff who shot a fantastic strike past the goalkeeper. Fulham also had several other chances to score. This is the key that makes me feel confident going into the second leg. I think Fulham showed they can attack against the Wolfsburg defense.
In concluding, the 5th key to me is was the difference in the match. Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera, Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey all gave the Wolfsburg defense trouble. Going back to Germany next week I am sure this key will be one that I will be highlighting. The other key that stood out was #2 with Fulham containing the strikers of Wolfsburg.
This was a great victory for Fulham. It might have been better if they did not give up that late goal. Regardless, Fulham fans should feel confident that the club has a good shot going back to Germany in the second leg.