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The 12th man

All 20-odd thousand of us. That’s what Simon “Digger” Davies says in his interview on the offal today;

Sometimes I wonder if the fans realise how important they are. When they really get going at the Cottage they as good as anything else in the League, especially the Hammersmith End – they’re brilliant.

They almost suck us in towards them and if they can start the game like that on Thursday then they’ll be a massive, massive advantage for us.

So no pressure then. Although if the atmosphere on Thursday evening is half as good as it was for Shakhtar or Juventus, it’ll be absolutely stonking.

Davies goes on to say how much this game means to him and I love the tactful way he says that, essentially, no one believed we’d get to the semi-final;

It’s definitely the biggest game I’ve had for a club side. I’ve played some big games on the international stage against some big countries, and we had the game against Portsmouth to stay in the League, but this game, to reach the Final of a major tournament, is an unbelievable opportunity.

If you’d have told us that we would be in this position when we were travelling to Vetra last summer it would have stretched the imagination but we’ve got the chance now and we’ve done ever so well as a squad to give ourselves this chance.

You certainly have, Simon. You all certainly have.

Here’s to a clapper-tastic, chant-mendous Thursday. If ever there was a need, nay a duty, to get behind the boys this is surely it.

Zamora hopes his Achilles will heal

Bobby Zamora is hoping that his Achilles problem will heal in time for he to play his part in Fulham’s massive European semi-final second leg against Hamburg.

Zamora is likely to be rested for Sunday’s trip to Everton to allow him as much time to recover from his injury, which flared up again in the warm-up before the first leg last night. Fulham’s top scorer is desperate to start the second leg.

I have had an Achilles tendon problem for a long time. It has been niggling at me for a bit now and I just did a little bit too much but I really hope to play next Thursday, I am desperate to be part of that.

Bobby was pretty upbeat about Fulham’s performance too.

It was a great result because everyone knows what we can do at home. We managed to keep it tight, which gives us a big chance. It doesn’t mean we will definitely go through but we are quietly confident we can get a result if we play as we normally do at Craven Cottage.

We are a well-drilled team, which has been a major part of our success this season. And Mark Schwarzer is a top goalkeeper. Without doubt he is one of the best I have worked with, so we are happy to have him here.

Mathijsen happy with stalemate

Joris Mathijsen gives the impression that Hamburg aren’t too worried by their failure to establish a first-leg lead ahead of the Europa League semi-final second leg at Craven Cottage next week.

Fulham were pretty happy to have kept a clean sheet after a nightmare journey to Germany but Mathijsen thinks Hamburg’s record of scoring away from home this year should see his side to a home final.

There are certainly worse results. In summary, we have certainly created too few scoring opportunities. But despite the compact playing style of Fulham, we had a lot of efforts. In one situation or another we simply lacked the necessary luck, but we have every chance in the return game.

In the last three European away games we have scored a total of eight goals. In London, we will score our goal, I’m sure. And in the return game, every goal counts double.In the last three European away games we have scored a total of eight goals. In London, we will score our goal, I’m sure. And in the return game, every goal counts double.

Roy says semi-final’s ‘very open’

Roy Hodgson admitted that Fulham’s excellent performance in Hamburg last night leaves the Europa League semi-final ‘very open’ after the first leg.

The Fulham boss called on the Craven Cottage faithful to help his side earn a second trip to Hamburg next week.

We’ve been given enormous help from the fans in our home games and I’m sure they’ll be turning up in great numbers to cheer us on. The tie still is very open, 0-0 is not such a bad result for Hamburg because if they do score away from home then we’ll have to score two.

But having said that, a draw is a lot better than a defeat, any draw is better than a defeat.

Hodgson says Bobby Zamora’s Achilles injury will probably keep him out of Sunday’s game at Everton.

He has got an Achilles problem. We’ve been trying to manage him as best we can and that’s why he hasn’t played in some of the league matches.

We were a bit concerned about it, he was complaining about it before the game and we tried at half-time to see if it would go over or if he could play through it but he obviously couldn’t. Fortunately we’ve got Clint Dempsey back to full fitness and he carried on where Bob had left off.

Well to be honest it’s so close to the end of the game that I haven’t had a chance to speak to the medical staff. It’s going to be a problem for the weekend I would think that’s for certain because of the travel.

We don’t get back until tomorrow afternoon and we’ve got to travel again on the Saturday so I would be surprised [if he was fit]. I still haven’t ruled him out, we’d have to see what the medical staff would say but if you asked me to have a bet on him playing or not playing then I would bet on him not playing.

Disciplined Fulham give themselves a shot at glory

As is often the case with Fulham away from about, there wasn’t an awful lot to get you excited about this performance. It was long on endeavour, but short on sparkle. But there was plenty to admire. Those qualities that Roy Hodgson has infused his team with since taking the reigns at Craven Cottage were in evidence again tonight: discipline, organisation, resilience and hard work. As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, putting in the hard yards can carry you a long way. After a goalless draw in Hamburg, it might – just might – take Fulham to a European final.

This performance was all the more laudable when you consider the torturous nature of Fulham’s journey to Germany. Forced to bus it by the volcanic ash and, having had to pass the time on an autobahn by kicking a football around on the hard shoulder, there were fears that the boys might be more than a bit stiff as they stepped up to take on a Hamburg side, fired up by the desire to avenge last year’s painful semi-final defeat.

But Fulham didn’t buckle. For all of the home side’s dominance of both possession and territory, Hamburg didn’t create too much clearcut chances. The combination of Paolo Guerrero, who kept dropping into positions where Fulham struggled to curb his influence, and the bustling Ruud van Nistelrooy threatened to make this an uncomfortable evening for the visiting defence, but the unflappable Aaron Hughes and imposing Brede Hangeland kept their cool. On the one ocassion that van Nistelrooy, often the scourge of Fulham in previous, found space in behind the two centre backs, out came Mark Schwarzer to mop up the danger.

Hamburg were otherwise restricted to efforts from outside the box with Piotr Piotr Trochowski sending a couple of shots narrowly wide. It was Fulham who actually came the closest to breaking the deadlock. Bobby Zamora, who looked unlikely to start the game after injuring himself in the warm-up, did well to flick a Paul Konchesky punt into Zoltan Gera’s path. The Hungarian’s shot deflected off Jerome Boateng and flew inches wide.

Zamora’s evening wasn’t extended much beyond half-time as his hamstring injury necessitated the introduction of a replacement. Clint Dempsey made another return from injury in the Europa League and had an immediate impact with his direct running worrying the Hamburg defence. He had a penalty appeal turned down and combined with the excellent Gera on a couple of ocassions to threaten a precious away goal.

The American was on hand to tap in a low cross from Gera had Joris Mathijsen failed to cut it out and then the former West Brom midfielder broke into the box, cutting inside before slipping at the crucial moment. The game became more stretched in the final stages but Fulham stuck resolutely to their task with Schwarzer making excellent stops from long-range shots by Jonathan Potroipa and Trochowski. The Australian goalkeeper, who had an extra reason to perform tonight given his German parentage, did brilliantly to preserve parity when he got his hands to a powerful shot from skipper David Jarolim.

HAMBURG (4-4-2): Rost; Demel (Rincon 82), Aogo, Mathijsen, J. Boateng; Ze Roberto, Jarolim, Pitroipa, Trochowski; Guerrero (Petric 72), van Nistelrooy. Subs (not used): Hesl, Rozenhal, Tesche, Tunay Torun, Rincon.

BOOKED: Mathijsen, Trochowski.

FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Murphy, Duff, Davies; Gera; Zamora (Dempsey 52). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Smalling, Kelly, Dikgacoi, Greening, Nevland.

BOOKED: Baird, Gera.

REFEREE: Bo Larsen (Denmark).