Be honest, who would have thought that Fulham Football Club would be sitting pretty in the final 16 of the Europa League amongst the likes of Juventus, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid?
Thursday nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s match against Shakhtar Donetsk was their biggest challenge of the season, and they succeeded.
“This Shakhtar team is as good as any team I have come across in 35 years,” states Hodgson. When you think of the great teams this man has come up against in his wonderful career, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s saying something.
Fulham played well. Very well. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a very long time since weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen a Fulham side with so much strength and determination about them. But we saw it in abundance last night.
Bringing with them a 2-1 lead from the home leg, Fulham knew they were going to have to play pretty much the entire 90 minutes with their backs up against the wall. And it was hardly a surprise that within half an hour, Shakhtar had racked up 11 shots and nine corners.
However, Fulham were resilient, and with a solid wall of white shirts blocking the path to Mark Schwarzer, Shakhtar were reduced to long shots.
But it was Fulham who against the run of play made the breakthrough with their first real chance of the match. A Damien Duff in-swinging free kick from the right side of the box was met with a perfectly-timed glancing header from Hangeland.
The 50,000 strong crowd, who some of answered a pre-match poll on the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s website as to whether or not Shakhtar would win, were silenced within a second. This silence soon turned to frustration as they bombarded Fulham with further attacks but all to no avail.
Shakhtar were finally rewarded for their efforts in the latter part of the match with a brilliantly crafted goal, but Hodgson’s side managed to hold on and the vital second goal Shakhtar were searching for never came.
Fulham face Italian giants Juventus next month in what is arguably their most glamorous and biggest match of the last ten years. Can they do it? Will little old Fulham come stricken to stage fright at the Stadio delle Alpi? Who knows Ã¢â‚¬â€ but if there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go down without a fight.
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