John Arne Riise scored the winning penalty as Fulham survived a real scare to sneak past Burton Albion on penalties in a pulsating Capital One Cup tie at the Pirelli Stadium this evening.
There was little hint at the drama to come when Adel Taraabt skipped past two defenders and fired home his first goal for Fulham just before half-time. Jol’s decision to field a strong side seemed to have been rewarded as his side largely dominated proceedings, passing the ball around at will, and controlling the contest. The Moroccan international, in need of games having had very little pre-season training at relegated QPR, was the pick of players on show in the first 45 minutes and fully deserved his goal, which was wonderfully taken as he skipped past two defenders before beating Phil Edwards with a low shot into the bottom corner. Taraabt had already tested Edwards with a couple of speculative shots and Fulham’s effectiveness diminished when he was withdrawn at half-time as a precaution after feeling his hamstring.
Burton, who have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season in League Two, were largely on the back foot and their best opportunities came via their talismanic centre forward Rene Howe, who brought one smart save out of David Stockdale, and sent another effort just wide. The Brewers were a threat from set-plays with several tall attackers, but Fulham looked untroubled for much of the contest. The top flight visitors spurned several glorious chances to extend their lead in the second half. Goalkeeper Dean Lyness did well to keep out Darren Bent as the striker went through one-on-one whilst substitute Alex Kacanaklic shot wide from a promising position.
Gary Rowett’s side grew in confidence the longer the game went on and midfielder Jack Dyer offered a hint of what was to come with a powerful drive from the edge of the penalty area before Chris Hussey struck a sweet effort straight at Stockdale. The pair combined to create Burton’s equaliser with five minutes to play. Hussey sauntered down the left flank and produced an excellent cross, which was superbly met on the volley by Dyer, whose finish flew beyond Stockdale’s despairing drive. The home crowd roared Burton forward and they thought they had won in right at death when Michael Symes bundled the ball over the line, but the goal was correctly disallowed for handball by the big Burton forward.
Fulham had the better of the first period of extra time. Bent turned and a fired towards goal after Burton had failed to clear a corner, but Lyness produced a superb reaction save. Pajtim Kasami’s clever turn and shot was pushed onto the post by Lyness and Sascha Riether somehow hit the post instead of turning the ball into an open goal, before Ian Sharps scrambled his follow-up off the line. As if to punish Fulham for their profligacy, Symes climbed majestically to head home another superb cross from Hussey. Stockdale produced a superb save to deny Burton a third when he tipped over Jimmy Phillips’ rising drive and then had to be alert to keep out an effort from the impressive Hussey.
Time was running out for Jol’s side to avoid a second successive exit at the second round stage of the competition. Substitute Hugo Rodallega, introduced just after the Burton goal, was Fulham’s saviour as he kept a cool head during a real goalmouth scramble after Scott Parker’s shot had come back off the crossbar. The Colombian smashed home a terrific finish and almost repeated the feat in the last-minute of extra time.
Fulham had gone out of the League Cup on penalties at Stamford Bridge two years ago, but avoided a similar fate here when Stockdale saved from the unfortunate Dyer after four successful spot-kicks. Riise emphatically powered home the crucial penalty to save Fulham’s blushes, but the cruel finality of it all was harsh on battling Burton.
BURTON ALBION (4-1-4-1): Lyness; Edwards, McCrory, Sharps, Holness; Bell (Phillips 61); Palmer, Weir (Reed 61), Dyer, Hussey; Howe (Symes 78). Subs (not used): Morch, Harness, Knowles.
BOOKED: Palmer, Dyer, Phillips, Symes.
GOALS: Dyer (85), Symes (102).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Riether, Riise, Hughes, Hangeland; Parker, Karagounis (Rodallega 103); Dejagah (Kasami 84), Taraabt (Kacaniklic 45), Ruiz; Bent. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Briggs, Sidwell, Boateng.
GOALS: Taraabt (36), Rodallega (117).
REFEREE: Andy Madley (Wakefield).