Roma recover to edge Fulham
Roma came from behind to beat nine-man Fulham 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Group E of the UEFA Europa League tonight. It was the English side's first defeat in the competition and left them third in the group, two points behind their Italian hosts with two games remaining.
Diomansy Kamara put the Cottagers ahead in the 19th minute from the penalty spot, after being brought down inside the area by Marco Andreolli. Fulham shot themselves in the foot early in the second half, though, when substitute Erik Nevland was shown a straight red card three minutes after coming on for a tackle on Daniele De Rossi.
Roma took advantage, with John Arne Riise equalising in the 68th minute before Stefano Okaka headed in the winner with 14 minutes remaining. Fulham defender Paul Konchesky was handed his marching orders late in the game after a foul on substitute Rodrigo Taddei.
The match did not capture the imagination of the Giallorossi fans with the famous Stadio Olimpico less than half full. After being forced to settle for a draw in the first game between the two sides in London, Roy Hodgson's team were determined to claim all three points in Rome.
The game began at a frenetic pace as both sides attempted to impose their play. Fulham put a good move together in the eighth minute when Konchesky fed Bjorn Helge Riise inside the area, but his right-footed shot was blocked by Philippe Mexes.
At the other end, Aaron Hughes did well to clear Stefano Guberti's dangerous cross from the left. Fulham broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when Andreolli brought down Kamara, the striker sending Roma goalkeeper Alexander Doni the wrong way from the spot.
Roma almost pulled level midway through the first half, but Mexes's powerful header from Cicinho's cross from the right went inches wide of the far post. On the half-hour mark, Julio Baptista's acrobatic kick went wide as the home team pressed forward in search of an equaliser.
In the 37th minute, Kamara had a golden chance to extend Fulham's lead, but his powerful header from Konchesky's cross from the left went wide of the far post. Clint Dempsey could have made it 2-0 shortly before half-time, but his diagonal effort from Jonathan Greening's assist took a deflection off a Roma defender.
However, Nevland's sending off hurt Fulham and Roma almost levelled the score seconds later, with Rodrigo Taddei's stinging drive from distance going over the bar. Guperti then latched on to Taddei's cross from the left but headed wide from close range.
On the hour mark, Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made a stunning one-handed save to stop Guperti's left-footed strike from 15 yards out. Roma were finally rewarded in the 68th minute, with John Arne Riise's left-footed strike from the edge of the area taking a deflection from a Fulham defender and surprising the Australia No1.
The hosts went in front in the 76th minute with Okaka's close-range header from Taddei's cross beating Schwarzer. Fulham went in search of the equaliser but it was Roma who looked more dangerous.
With five minutes remaining, Schwarzer was forced to dive to his right to save Okaka's acrobatic kick from the edge of the area. Substitute Chris Baird had a good chance to make it 2-2, but his right-footed strike on target was cleared by Mexes as Roma held on for the win.
Fulham ended the game down to nine men after Konchesky was shown a straight red with seconds remaining, following a foul on Taddei.