Fulham marched into the UEFA Europa League last 32 after Bobby Zamora's double inspired the Premier League side to a 3-2 win at Basel on Wednesday. Also adding their names to the knockout round mix were Hertha Berlin, Panathinaikos, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, with the final four places up for grabs in Thursday's final throw of the group round dice.
Fulham shrugged off the falling snow to record a memorable victory over the Swiss and become the third English club to make it into the knockout stages, the Londoners joining Everton and UEFA Champions League participants Liverpool. Fulham manager and former Inter Milan coach Roy Hodgson, when asked who he wanted to meet in the drawn for the next round, replied: "I wouldn't mind playing Juventus."
Fulham had travelled to Switzerland one point behind Basel in third, with Roma already having secured top place, in Group E. And with Zamora once again silencing those critics who had begun to question his scoring record, Fulham did the business in style to finish the first round on ten points, one behind the Italians, who beat CSKA Sofia 3-0 in Bulgaria.
Zamora had a goal disallowed for offside after 16 minutes but three minutes from the break he had Fulham in front when he steered home Bjorn Helge Riise's cross with his left foot. Two minutes later Riise acted as provider again with Zamora this time finishing with his head for his fourth goal in three games.
Basel were back in the game after the hour mark when Alexander Frei's spotkick, awarded for Chris Smalling's handball, beat Fulham's Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. On 77 minutes Zoltan Gera settled Hodgson's nerves, sidefooting the ball in from Stephen Kelly's pullback. Marco Streller's header from a corner into the far post three minutes from time stirred the home fans but Fulham held on to keep their European adventure firmly alive.
Hodgson enthused about Zamora's match-winning contribution. "Bobby carried on from where he left off in the Premier League," he said. "I thought he was very unlucky to have a first goal ruled out for offside, and he was a real thorn in the flesh of the Basel defence.
"Bobby is one of our more popular players, he has a chant of his own and the fans seem to appreciate and like him. The one criticism is he hasn't scored enough goals but nine goals (this season) is a pretty good return for any forward. We were pretty good value tonight for the goals we scored and we could have scored more."
Roma on top
Alessandro Cerci struck twice with substitute Filippo Scardina adding another as Roma secured top spot at CSKA Sofia with the reward a seeding in Friday's draw. In Group D, the German first division's bottom side Hertha Berlin qualified as runners-up with a 1-0 win over table-toppers Sporting Lisbon.
Group F's final round of matches saw Greek side Panathinaikos join already qualified Galatasaray in the next round after grabbing second place with a 3-0 victory over Dinamo Bucharest. Later Belgian outfit Club Brugge grabbed the only goal in injury time for a 1-0 win over Toulouse which saw them through as runners-up of Group J behind Shakhtar Donetsk.
In Group K Copenhagen continued their European adventure with a rousing 3-0 win at Sparta Prague. The Danes finished on 10 points, four behind table winners PSV Eindhoven. Group L was already decided with Werder Bremen and Athletic Bilbao already assured of their places in the knockout round.
Thursday sees the final batch of first round games involving Groups A, B, C G, H, and I. The UEFA Europa League round of 32 draw is scheduled for Friday.