Fulham are still alive in the Intertoto Cup – after Junichi Inamoto and Sylvain Legwisnki inspired the Whites to twice battle back from behind and hold Bologna to a draw in the first leg of a fascinating final this evening.
The Serie A side looked to have the edge ahead of the return leg at Loftus Road through a pair of second half spot kicks from Giuseppe Signori, but Japanese midfielder Inamoto found the net within two minutes of coming off the bench before Legwinski levelled with five minutes left – scoring a precious second away goal for the Whites in the process.
Jean Tigana opted to leave Louis Saha on the bench, pairing Barry Hayles with Steve Marlet up front. The Fulham forwards posed problems for their hosts in a tight first half with Hayles’ powerful running and physicality often drawing Bologna’s three centre halves out of position. Marlet might have given the Premiership side the lead with a rising drive on the half hour that whistled narrowly over after he had dribbled past three Bologna defenders.
The Italians, more used to the continental stage than their opponents, probably shaded the first period but had created very little under Signori snatched at his shot in front of Edwin van der Sar. Giuseppe Colucci couldn’t take an even clearer opening – firing woefully over the top when clean through on goal. Bologna did take the lead eleven minutes after the interval when Signori slotted home a penalty after Sean Davis had pulled back Andre Cruz.
That prompted Tigana to make a double change as the French legend sent on Inamoto and Saha for Steed Malbranque and Hay;es. It took just two minutes for that move to pay dividends as Inamoto won the ball back in midfield and embarked on a mesmorising run that took him past three defenders and curled an unstoppable finish past Gianluca Pagliuca into the far corner. Inamoto’s manager was justified in describing it as ‘a fantasy goal’ afterwards.
Bologna weren’t stunned by Inamoto’s magical strike for too long. They regained the lead when Signori again beat van der Sar from the spot after Andy Melville had tugged down Cruz in the area. But Fulham kept pouring forward and Legwinski sparked delirium amongst the travelling fans when he tucked home an equaliser after Saha had failed to convert Marlet’s low cross. The second away goal probably makes Fulham favourites ahead of a mouthwatering second leg at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
BOLOGNA (3-5-1-1): Pagliuca; Zaccardo, Falcone, Castellini; Nervo (Brioschi 82′), Goretti (Locatelli 69′), Olive, Colucci, Smit; Signori (Bellucci 86′); Cruz. Subs: (not used) Coppola, Gamberini, Ardito, Meghni.
BOOKED: Colucci, Goretti, Nervo.
GOALS: Signori (pen 56, pen 75).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Ouaddoh, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque (Inamoto 61), Boa Morte; Hayles (Saha 61), Marlet. Subs (not used): Taylor, Leacock, Knight, Sava.
BOOKED: Davis, Legwinsk,Boa Morte, Saha.
GOALS: Inamoto (63), Legwinski (85).
REFEREE: Edward Gonzalez (Spain).
And Fulham went behind in the 56th minute when Signori tucked away a penalty to the left of Edwin van der Saar, but it was a short-lived lead.
Seeking more creativity, Tigana brought on Inamoto and he quickly proved his World Cup exploits for Japan were no fluke.
The attacking midfielder, who replaced Steed Malbranque in the 60th minute, scored the leveller just two minutes after going onto the field.
It was a stunning way to make an impact, but Bologna regained their lead with 15 minutes left to play.
Captain Signori, one of Serie A’s all-time record scorers, fired another spot-kick to the right of giant Dutchman van der Saar.
Yet Fulham, who ousted Haka, Aegaleo and Sochaux in previous rounds, were not to be beaten and Legwinski struck the ball home after 85 minutes when substitute Saha failed to apply a decisive touch.
Their never-say-die attitude now makes Fulham slight favourites to reach the UEFA Cup first round