Fulham had all kinds of travel problems just getting to Germany for the first leg of the Europa League Semifinals against Hamburg. How would the Cottagers play? The club battled and survived a second half barrage. Mark Schwarzer was in my opinion was the man of the match. The game ended with a well deserved 0 - 0 draw. The teams now go back to Craven Cottage for the second leg. The Semifinals will all be on the line next Thursday.
The first half was a game of cat and mouse. Hamburg had the ball a good amount of the time. It wouldn't take long for Hamburg to put the pressure on Fulham.
Ruud van Nistelrooy had the first chance of the game in the opening minute. He made a run with the ball and took it almost all the way to Mark Schwarzer. He lost control at the end of the run and Schwarzer retained the ball. In the 3rd minute, Piotr Trochowski had a nice shot that just went wide of the net. In the 9th minute, Trochowski had another shot that again that went wide of the net. He was very active in this game.
The best chance for Fulham came in the 14th minute. The play started with a great long pass from Paul Konchesky that went to Bobby Zamora. He made a great flick pass to Gera. Zoltan Gera had a great shot that was blocked by a Hamburg player. This was a great opportunity that was just outside of the box.
Most of the rest of the half saw Hamburg threaten, but really not able to get a clear shot on Schwarzer. Whenever Fulham would push forward , Hamburg would try to take advantage of Fulham in a counter attack. To Fulham's credit I think they really frustrated the German Side. The half ended 0 - 0.
The second half was much more spirited. Hamburg again came out of the half very strong. They were putting pressure on Fulham in the opening minutes.
Bobby Zamora took the first shot in the second half for Fulham. His shot sailed high way over the net. However, he seemed to injure himself on the shot. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Clint Dempsey. Zamora's injury will be a concern for the second leg.
The best chances for Fulham came off of the foot of Zoltan Gera. In the 60th minute, Zoltan Gera had a run into the box . He took a shot , but it was blocked by a Hamburg defender. In the 65th minute, Zoltan Gera had another great chance to score. He was fed a great pass from Dempsey. His shot again was blocked by a Hamburg defender.
After these chances from Gera, Hamburg would answer with several minutes of serious pressure and great shots. In the 66th minute, a Trachowski shot is nicely saved by Schwarzer. In the 70th minute, Jonathan Pitroipa had a great shot that was finger-tipped saved by Schwarzer. In the 72nd minute, a Piotr Trachoski shot just outside of the box again is finger-tipped saved by Schwarzer. The very next minute Jarolim had another great shot. In the 89th minute, Petric was just right next to the net, and Schwarzer again blocked a shot to deny Hamburg. Petric would have another shot in the 90th minute. This shot sailed over the net.
After all of that pressure it was Fulham who had the last best chance of the game. In stoppage time, Damien Duff had a free kick from a dangerous area. His kick though was saved by the Hamburg Goalkeeper. The game ended shortly afterwards with a 0 - 0 draw.
Going into the next leg though both teams will have issues to contend with. Piotr Trachowski of Hamburg picked up a yellow card and will be out of the second leg. He was very good in this game for Hamburg. For Fulham, Chris Baird picked up a yellow card and he will be out the second leg. Fulham will also have to deal with the health of Bobby Zamora. He came out with an injury in the second half. Both teams will have challenges to overcome.
In the end, Fulham battled and survived with a 0 - 0 draw. Mark Schwarzer and the defense were terrific. Hamburg in the second part of the second half had several chances to score. It is now back to Craven Cottage for the second leg.