In what must rank as one of the greatest comebacks by an English club in Europe, Fulham against all the odds won 4-1 last night against the mighty Italians Juventus to progress into the Europa League Quarter Finals with a 5-4 aggregate win.
Training 3-1 from the first leg and given no hope of progressing by the bookmakers or pundits things looked very bleak when Training 3-1 from the first leg and given no hope of progressing by the bookmakers or pundits things looked very bleak when Trezeguat fired Juventus into an apparently unassailable 4-1 lead after just 2 minutes.
Fortunately Fulham responded well to this setback and pulled a goal back after 9 minutes and thanks to a controversial refereeing decision which saw Juventus reduced to 10 men when Cannavaro was sent off in the 26th minute started to dominate the game.
Fulham were further aided by Juve deciding to play their third choice keeper 39-year-old Antonio Chimenti who was short of match experience and it showed.
Twice in the 1st half he was well beaten but to Fulham’s dismay the woodwork denied them but in the 39th minute Hungarian International Zoltan Gera struck to put Fulham in from on the night. He then scored a penalty in the second half to level the tie and set up a thrilling final half hour.
With 20 minutes to go Roy Hodson produced what was to be an inspired substitution bringing on American International Clint Dempsey and in the 82nd minute he scored the goal which against all the odds took Fulham into the last 8 of the Europa League.
Juventus were reduced to 9 men in injury time when Zebina was sent off for a rash tackle probably born out of frustration.
I am sure everyone in English football will be delighted both for Fulham and especially Roy Hodgson who is probably the most under Rated manager in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho‘s Inter Milan won 1-0 on his return to Stamford Bridge last night to send Chelsea out of the Champions League and give their manager a happy return to his old club. The self proclaimed “special one” will have thoroughly enjoyed his return having left the club under less than ideal circumstances after guiding them to their most successful period in the clubs history.
In a far from flowing game it was Samuel Eto’s clinical strike 11 minutes from time that settled the encounter giving Inter Milan a 3-1 aggregate victory and a place in the last 16.
Although disappointing for Chelsea fans they are still in with a chance of the League and Cup double and with their track record with managers Carlo Ancelotti may need to win them both to stay in a job.
It now looks increasingly likely that David Beckham will miss out on England’s trip to the World Cup Finals in South Africa after suffering an Achilles injury which will keep him sidelined for about 6 months. It will be a shame if he misses out as he would become the first player in England’s history to go to four consecutive World Cups if he goes.
Although at 34 he was probably not going to be an integral part of the team his experience and game changing ability would have been an asset.
England are currently one of the favourites for the 2010 World Cup with only Spain and Brazil more fancied in the betting.
Barring a major upset Stevenage Borough have secured another trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy following an emphatic 5-1 win at Kidderminster Harriers in the semi final 1st leg. Stevenage are current holders of the FA Trophy and have now won 19 of their last 21 matches in this competition including winning the Trophy in 2007.
They will meet the winners of the Salisbury v Barrow semi final in which Barrow hold a 1-0 lead after the first game.
The remaining English representatives in this seasons Europa League both lost their 1st leg away games last night. Fulham will now have an up hill task against Juventus losing 3-1 in Turin while Liverpool at only 1-o down to french side Lille will fancy their chances of over turning this at Anfield. This is now Liverpool’s only chance of a trophy and if they were to fail to progress it would heap more pressure on Rafael Benitez who’s position as manager is looking somewhat tenuous to say the least.
Fulham will of course be delighted with their performance overall and with an away goal there is always a chance of an unlikely comeback. The main surprise in this game was the poor crowd of only 11,406.
For the Sixth season in a row Real Madrid have failed to qualify for the quarter final stage of the European Champions League after crashing out 2-1 on aggregate to French club Lyon.
Despite spending £200 on new players success still eludes the Madrid giants and it is looking increasingly likely they will end the season with no silverware this year.
It was an unhappy night for David Beckham and his AC Milan team mates at Old Trafford tonight as Manchester United ran out comprehensive 4-0 winners to stroll into the Champions Leaague quarter finals 7-2 on aggregate.
By the time he came on for his emotional return Manchester United were 3-0 up and even the crowds standing ovation offered little consolation. He did however manage to make a little more of an impresion on the pitch than his collegues and forced Edwin van der Sar into a save as well as putting in a few good crosses.
However on the night only one team shone and on this form Manchester United look potential Champion League winners.
After their somewhat controversial defeat in Porto, Arsenal thanks to a Nicklas Bendtner hat-trick hammered Porto 5-0 last night to gain their place in the last eight of the Champions League. This will be especially pleasing to Bendtner who was u8nder the spot light following a succession of misses in Saturday’s win against Burnley.
Trailing 2-1 from the 1st leg due mainly to Porto never really looked like a team capable of holding their narrow lead and the game was already won before Bendtner hit his 3rd goal in injury time.
In the end Arsenals 6-2 aggregate victory was no more than they deserved and no one will fancy meeting them in the last eight.
Thanks to the remaining London clubs avoiding each other in the draw there is a chance of an all London final in the 2010 FA Cup Final.
The Draw is:
Chelsea v Aston Villa, a repeat of the 2000 final
Tottenham or Fulham v Portsmouth.
Both ties will be played at Wembley which should ensure the pitch gets even more damage before the final.
In by far the most entertaining of the weekends FA Cup Quarter Final ties Aston Villa came back from a two goal deficit to win 4-2 at Reading, thanks to a hat trick from big John Carew.
Reading leading deservedly at half time seemed to go to sleep defensively in the opening minutes of the second half and suddenly from being in control found themselves 3-2 down as Villa responded to Martin O’ Neils undoubtedly strong half time team talk. Despite Readings Best efforts in the second half they never really looked like staging a comeback and man of the match John Carew hit a late penalty to put the result beyond doubt.
As well as putting Villa into the Semi Final at Wembley this win ended Marin O’ Neils unenviable record of having never won a game as Villa managed in March.
In the other ties Portsmouth and Chelsea both won 2-0 and Fulham and Tottenham will replay after an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage.