Fulham cruised into a commanding position in the UEFA Cup second round tie with Dinamo Zagreb after stunning the Croatians with a superb display of counter-attacking football. The Whites fully exploited Kristijan Polovanec’s sending off as Luis Boa Morte, Steve Marlet and Barry Hayles secured a three-goal cushion for the Cottagers to take back to London.

Jean Tigana’s side might have been slightly fortunate to book a second round berth after edging past Hajduk Split in the second round, but that success was built on the back of a professional away display in Croatia last month. The Whites were much more in control here, having assumed a firm grip on the contest even before Polovanec was sent off for crudely hacking down Boa Morte as the Portuguese winger had burst clear on the halfway line.

The visitors, who had gone close earlier in proceedings through Steve Marlet, took just three more minutes to punish Dinamo’s indiscipline. Marlet freed Steed Malbranque along the left flank and the peerless playmaker beat two defenders before being blocked off. The loose ball ran to Boa Morte, who coolly rounded Tomislav Butina to put the Whites ahead. They could have had a second within two minutes but another blistering Boa Morte break was brought to an end by a sliding challenge from Dario Smoje.

The Londoners were given a warning about the slender nature of their single goal advantage on the stroke of half time. Dumitru Mitu, still smouldering with rage having been booked moments earlier for a blatant dive, rampaged forward from left wing back to belt a drive against Edwin van der Sar’s crossbar. The hosts continued to attack after the interval with Silvio Maric heading over from a promising position before Marlet should have done better than running out of room after being sent through on goal by a brilliant ball from Abdes Ouaddoh.

Tigana sent on Junichi Inamoto to replace Martin Djetou and the Japanese international reprised his InterToto Cup exploits within moments. The former Arsenal midfielder drew three defenders towards him before releasing Marlet along the left wing. This time the French international kept his composure, calmly caressing a finish beyond Butina to give Fulham breathing space. Barry Hayles then scored within nine minutes of stepping off the bench – tucking home a cross from another substitute in Andrejs Stolcers – to make it a convincing continental away win for the Cottagers.

DINAMO ZAGBREB (5-3-2): Butina; Krznar, Smoje, Sedloski, Polovanec; Maric, Mitu, Agic, Mikic; Olic, Balaban (Petrovic 64). Subs (not used): Turina, Cesar, Mujcin, Zahora, Kranjcar, Bosnjak.


SENT OFF: Polovanec (33).

FULHAM (5-3-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Ouaddoh, Melville, Goma; Djetou (Inamoto 58), Legwinski, Malbranque; Marlet (Hayles 65), Boa Morte (Stolcers 69). Subs (not used): Taylor, Knight, Wome, Clark.

BOOKED: Finnan.

GOALS: Boa Morte (36), Marlet (60), Hayles (78)

REFEREE: Eduardo Iturralde González (Spain).