It might have been an enthralling evening at the Cottage but it wasn’t the win that Martin Jol craved. For a while, it looked as if Fulham might take all three points against their chief rivals for top spot in our Europa League group but the home side failed to take advantage of a first-half spell of pressure and seemed curiously reluctant to pull the trigger in the second period as Twente looked the more likely to steal a victory as the game progressed.
Jol rotated his side with the frightening prospect of Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City visiting on Sunday and they very nearly did enough to claim a victory. Matthew Briggs looked impressive down the left flank, while Chris Baird coped admirably with the arrival threat of the lanky Luuk de Jong and Zdenik Grygera enjoying a solid debut at full-back. Pajtim Kasami faded after a bright start while Moussa Dembele was as infuriating as ever on the wing. Jol’s decision to replace his most potent goal-threat in Andy Johnson, whose clever finish gave Fulham a first-half lead, with Bobby Zamora rather than pairing the two together up front was especially baffling as the Whites looked to press for a winner.
Johnson looked lively up front and needed no second invitation to bounce on a horribly short back-pass from Dwight Tiendalli to sprint in on goal and lift his chip over the advancing Nikolay Mihaylov. He took the opportunity to remind Jol of his predatory instincts, appearing to mouth ‘I told you so’ at the Fulham bench. Johnson was far from happy when he was withdrawn in the second half as well. His goal was fitting reward for Fulham’s early endeavour that had seen Clint Dempsey, who buzzed around brightly behind Johnson in the first quarter, pepper the Twente goal with long-range shots. Danny Murphy flicked a header wide, before Twente punished Fulham’s prolifigacy.
De Jong should have levelled matters with his first chance after drifting between Baird and Hangeland to flick a header at goal, but his free header was smothered by Schwarzer. He got a bit luckier a couple of minutes later when he nodded Roberto Rosales’ cross against the near post but the ball bounced off Schwarzer’s body and back into the Hammersmith End net.
Fulham were much brighter at the start of the second half but failed to find a way through a resolute Twente defence. Dempsey glanced a diving header wide of goal from Sidwell’s deep cross, before the American’s penalty appeals inadvertently created the game’s most glorious chance for Johnson. Dempsey went to ground in the area under a challenge from Tim Cornelisse but after the referee waved play on the ball rebounded into Johnson’s path. Frustratingly, the former Everton striker shot straight at Mihaylov from eleven yards when virtually any other spot would have restored Fulham’s lead.
Zamora’s arrival didn’t exactly spark a hatful of late Fulham chances. The substitute dropped too deep to influence the game, while Dembele drifted aimlessly inside from wide positions – both with and without the ball. The best of the Whites’ late chances fell to Sidwell, who headed wastefully over with Dempey waiting behind him from Kasami’s right wing cross.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Gygera, Briggs (Senderos 81), Hangeland, Baird; Sidwell, Murphy, Kasami (Duff 71), Dempsey; Johnson (Zamora 66), Dembele. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Kelly, Gecov, Sa.
BOOKED: Gygera, Murphy, Senderos, Dempsey.
GOAL: Johnson (19).
FC TWENTE (4-1-3-2): Mihaylov; Cornelisse, Tiendalli, Douglas, Wisgerhof; Rosales; Jansen (Landzaat 73), Brama, Fer; de Jong, John (Bajrami 67). Subs (not used): Boschker, Bengtsson, Berghuis, Leugers, Janko.
BOOKED: Brama, Rosales.
GOAL: Schwarzer (og 41).
REFEREE: Antonio Damato (Italy).