Two second half goals in eleven minutes saw Fulham ease past Sochaux to book a spot in the InterToto Cup final with an outstanding away display in eastern France.
Sylvain Legwinski headed in a free-kick from Sean Davis to add to the academy-produced midfielder’s late winner in the first leg before substitute Barry Hayles battered in a second to make certain of Fulham’s progress. The home side’s uphill task was made almost impossible when substitute Benoit Pedretti was sent off for a second booking – and the Whites can almost touch a place in the UEFA Cup, which will the reward for the winners of their final against Bologna later this month.
Hayles’ telling contribution off the bench was particularly noteworthy after he travelled to France knowing he would be on the bench rather than discuss a potential move to West Brom. Fulham’s leading scorer from last season is highly valued at the club and any doubt about his future was extinguished when the man brought to Craven Cottage by Kevin Keegan for £2m in 1999 dribbled past three defenders and powered a home an unstoppable left-footed strike.
This was the sort of continental display produced by European veterans rather than Jean Tigana’s novices. Fulham, sitting on the slenderest of leads following Davis’ stoppage-time screamer at Loftus Road last week, had to ride their luck at times. Alain Goma thwarted Sylvain Monsoreau with a superb goal-line clearance after the full back had headed goalwards from a free-kick before Edwin van der Sar backpedalled brilliantly to keep out Mickael Isabey’s impudent 30-yard chip.
Fulham, whose brightest moment saw Louis Saha’s improvised back header superbly saved by Jean-Baptiste Daguet, were much more cohesive after the interval and looked threatening on the counter attack. Davis, who had broken up Sochaux attacks all night, had a decisive role to play in the opener – flighting a fabulous free-kick for Legwinski, who had found the side netting when played in by the England under 21 international earlier on, to loop a wonderful header past the stranded Daguet.
Hayles needed just five minutes to make his mark – with the sort of magic that displayed last term – and Fulham were comfortable for the remainder of the contest as the Stade Bonal crowd booed their side in the closing stages. Tigana punched the air after the final whistle and, although the celebrations were much more subdued than the famous night at Ewood Park when Fulham effectively booked a spot back in the big time, this success felt just as significant.
SOCHAUX (4-3-3): Daguet; Tall, Monsoreau, Savelji?, Flachez; Oruma (Pedretti 55), Chedli, Mathieu; Isabey, Zairi (Santos 55), Boudaréne (Pagis 55). Subs (not used): Martinovi?, Daf, Rashke, de Carvalho.
BOOKED: Boudaréne, Chedli, Pedretti.
SENT OFF: Pedretti (80).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Ouaddoh, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque (Inamoto 58), Boa Morte (Collins 72); Marlet, Saha (Hayles 66). Subs (not used): Herrera, Knight, Lewis, Sava.
GOALS: Legwinski (63), Hayles (71).
REFEREE: Franz-Xavier Wack (Germany).
This report initially appeared in the August 8 2002 edition of Sportscene