clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fulham 3 - 0 Dnipro

Getty Images

It had to come together most perfectly at some point, didn't it? The mounting number of additional training sessions, the holiday reduced so extremely that even the usually timid Brede Hangeland bemoaned inclusion in a competition most would assume he loved. Maybe we would've hoped that the extra work that has been dedicated would pay off a little sooner, perhaps even within the confines of our Premier League curtain raiser against Aston Villa, but at a bare minimum, we should be elated our moment has finally come.

The boys look sharp.

Clint Dempsey returned to what many may now consider his most favourable role against Ukrainian outfit Dnipro - partnering Bobby Zamora in a leading line role. And, as hoped, the shuffle was an inspired decision as Dempsey showed glimpses of his past campaign, in which the American finished top scorer and was voted player of the season by a rationally distinctive margin.

The texan-born midfielder, who has again had a summer of links abroad, bagged two goals after Aaron Hughes settled any early nerves on Thursday night.

As we've come to expect over recent months, the match started a little slowly, but the youthful aspects of our side, which manager Martin Jol would like to positively encourage, did begin to show their worth in the opening minutes. Matthew Briggs forced Jan Lastuvka into a near post saved after a blurring sprint down the left hand side within the third minute.

Dnipro, managed by broadly unpopular - though I'd argue, through no fault of his own - Juande Ramos, didn't take the early pressure lightly, however, and set about matching our possession game. Little came of their keep-ball, though, and the pressure was showing with a string of corners causing problems for Lastuvka and his seemingly shaky defence.

Fulham finally provided evidence of the sharpness that has previously evaded them on the 39th minute, yet again Briggs causing the problems for Ramos' side. A touch of flair opened up some space for the academy graduate, who drilled the ball across goal for Aaron Hughes to delicately direct the ball goalwards.

Just as the mantra on waiting for buses goes, however, Jol's men weren't about to stop there. Barely four minutes later and Clint Dempsey had doubled our lead. Steve Sidwell, who put in a fine performance on the night, was not only asking questions of the Dnipro defence, but also of Martin Jol's selection policy when placing a perfectly timed and similarly weighted ball into the path of Dempsey, who cooly swept the ball past the Dnipro 'keeper.

Half time beckoned and, for once, the Cottagers had seemingly came out of the blocks at a respectable pace.

Back from the break, though, it was clear that Jol had encouraged the palpable momentum to continue, as Dempsey added his second of the game. This time the American displayed his aerial prowess, heading home a Pajtim Kasami cross, who himself advertised his abundant talent and skill throughout the match.

Our Ukrainian visitors still had a simmering fire in their bellies, however, and a significant spell of pressure followed. Schwarzer was tested a couple of times from long range but, as always, stood firm.

As the evening began to dampen down a little, Jol opted for some changes, bringing on Moussa Dembele and Dickson Etuhu. As expected, Dembele looked sharp and Etuhu didn't have the time to display the weaknesses we've all seen over the past weeks. For the few moments he had on the field, he looked decent and assured.

Bobby Zamora could have added himself to the score-sheet and killed the overall tie late on, but it's not in his style to make the return leg in Eastern Europe a drab affair with little to play for.

We shall travel, at least, with something substantial to defend.