Aaron Hughes Image 2
Dnipro 1-0 Fulham (Fulham win 3-1 on aggregate)
FULHAM survived a very nervy tie in the Ukraine – but mercifully had enough from the first leg to make the group stages of the Europa League for the second time.
Convincing they were not. But had sub Pajtim Kasami converted Damien Duff’s cross with the goal at the forward’s mercy on 75 minutes – the contest would have been over long before the end.
As it was, Dnipro’s build-up play was far more urgent than last week at Craven Cottage where they lost 3-0, and countless half chances kept the 70 Fulham fans on the edge of their seats.
Two disastrous minutes in the first half cost the Whites a player and a goal in that order.
John-Arne Riise pulled up lame holding his groin.
And no sooner had Matthew Briggs replaced him did Evgeny Shakhov stab home at the far post from a corner to get the Meteor Stadium rocking.
However, the white shirts regrouped and put together the better passing moves for the next 40 minutes, even if an equaliser on the night looked out of reach.
In added on time in the first period, Yevgen Konoplianka’s curling free-kick found Mark Schwarzer in the right place to comfortably palm over. But Fulham were grateful to hear the first-half whistle when a home head failed to get a decent connection at the near post.
But it was a wall of blue that threatened to engulf the west Londoners in the second half.
Waves of attacks were stopped time and time again with Aaron Hughes (pic) calm personified blocking half chances in around the box.
Matthew Briggs also showed why boss Martin Jol has praised the 20-year-old with covering play that kept Schwarzer less busy than the Aussie probably imagined at half time.
But when Kasami missed the sitter – his keeper still had to bring off a smart save from a last-minute free kick to snuff out any last Dnipro hope.