It still seems as fresh as yesterday, but it was eight years ago this evening that Brede Hangeland’s brilliant header helped Fulham to a famous draw in Donetsk that eliminated UEFA Cup holders Shakhtar Donetsk from the Europa League in one of the best results of Roy Hodgson’s side’s remarkable run to the final. I’d still maintain that Shakhtar, with their sprinkling of Brazilian magic, are one of the best footballing sides I’ve ever seen visit Craven Cottage – but Fulham’s defensive discipline under Hodgson helped the Whites hold on after Hangeland’s crucial away goal.
Our match report from the evening began by recognising the enormity of the occasion and the magnitude of Fulham’s backs-to-the-wall performance:
It wasn’t pretty. It was gritty, often nervy and – at times – even a little desperate but it was enough. Fulham claimed the sizeable scalp of the UEFA Cup holders, Shakhtar Donetsk, in Ukraine tonight with a performance full of the tenacity and organisation that has characterised their rapid rise under Roy Hodgson. The wily old coach, who unbelievably was thought to have something to prove in his homeland when he returned to the Premier League with Fulham staring relegation in the face in 2007, predicted that Shakhtar will unleash an early onslaught and he was right. But the Londoners stood firm, scored with their first attack and, barring a frantic finale which saw captain Danny Murphy sent off for an impetus kick at an opponent in injury, largely withstood the home pressure.
Writing for the Daily Mail, Laura Williamson lauded Hangeland’s heroic display as Fulham soaked up almost relenting Shakhtar pressure in the second half.
The manager himself hailed the victory as ‘wonderful’:
It has been a wonderful night for the club. Shakhtar showed what a good team they are. Their ability to pass and keep the ball is as good as I’ve seen in my 35-year career. I don’t like to compare nights, but it’s yet another marvellous night along the way and great credit to the team. I really enjoyed the night and the performance but I still hope there’ll be some more good nights to come.
He wasn’t wrong about that.