Fulham earn draw in Hamburg
Fulham will take a slight advantage into next week's UEFA Europa League semi-final, second leg at home to Hamburg having earned a 0-0 draw in the Hanseatic City in Thursday's first leg.
Hamburg will host the final on 12 May at the HSH Nordbank Arena, but could not make home advantage count in the first leg despite several clear chances to take the lead. With their chances of winning the Bundesliga title effectively ended by a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Mainz last weekend, Bruno Labbadia-coached Hamburg are concentrating on the Europa League, but still have it all to do in London next Thursday.
"Of course, we really wanted to get a goal here, but it is not as though we now have no chance in Fulham," said Labbadia. "We will always have the chance to score a goal, while our opponents will need to score two. We had our chances here, we just couldn't take them."
Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer played down the effects of his side's taxing 27 hour road trip to get to the match, saying: "The trip was well documented, and we were a bit tired in the legs, but in the end it's a good performance. We've done fantastically well to limit them to so few chances and it's a really admirable performance that gives us hope for the return leg."
The hosts laid siege to the Fulham goal in the second-half with three clear chances in three minutes with a quarter of the match left to play, but to no avail. Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa both went close, but Hamburg's attack was constantly frustrated by Fulham's Australian goalkeeper Schwarzer.
Home side profligate
In the end, the stats show Hamburg had five clear chances on goals, while Fulham failed to create a single threatening chance and won the corner count 7-1, but the hosts could not make the numerical advantage count. Hamburg striker Mladen Petric came off the bench with 20 minutes left having struggled with a groin strain, but even the presence of the Croatian hot-shot could not forge the vital goal.
With time running out, Germany winger Piotr Trochowski earned himself a yellow card which will see him suspended for next week's second leg. Hamburg will not fancy going back to Fulham's Craven Cottage where Roy Hodgson's Fulham have produced one of the tournament's biggest upsets.
Fulham pulled off one of the most stunning fight backs in European football history when they turned a 3-1 deficit from the first leg into a 4-1 win at home to go through 5-4 on aggregate in the last 16 against Juventus. They then beat defending German league champions Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals to set up the semi-final clash which stands between Hamburg and their dream final.