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Bobby ‘pleased’ with the points

A beaming Bobby Zamora was pleased by both the manner of Fulham’s win over Wisla Krakow this evening and the continued success of his partnership with Andy Johnson up front.

The victory leaves Fulham needing just three points from their final two games in Group K to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and both strikers looked in fine fettle tonight.

We were pleased to win, obviously. And it was a good performance with a few goals, which is always nice.

There were some well worked goals, so we were pleased with that. And AJ’s on fire – he’s the man at the minute, and long may it continue for him and for us. After a year out injured he’s come back and he’s strong. He’s proving a point to a lot of people who doubted him.

Zamora revealed that the free-kick routine that led to the third goal wasn’t exactly well-rehearsed.

We tried it for the first time the other day. We’ve literally done it once in training! It worked brilliantly, so don’t go telling everyone, or you’ll expose it!

The England admitted that losing in Krakow was a real disappointment for the squad.

Yeah, we were a bit disappointed with that. So the lads were really up for it tonight. We knew we had to win this one and prove a point to them, so it was nice to win, but now we have to think about a tough game on Sunday [against Tottenham].

To be fair, in the past couple of seasons we’ve put in some good performances against them, so it would be nice to do the same and win, but it’s going to be tough. They’re a great side with some top players, so it won’t be easy.

But we’re at home, which is massive. We’ve got a great record here, so hopefully we’ll put in a good performance again and get a good result.

Jol purrs at Fulham’s quality

Martin Jol was waxing lyrical about the quality of Fulham’s finishing after they put four past Wisla Krakow at Craven Cottage this evening.

The Fulham manager was delighted with the result, which puts his side on course to finish second to FC Twente in Group K, and reserved special praise for striker Andy Johnson, who grabbed another two goals to continue his fine form in the Europa League.

We scored early so that was good but then we lost the ball in midfield [and they scored]. That said, we scored some great goals. The second goal was amazing and the third one was a clever one.

If you could come up with ideas like that every week you would be like Real Madrid in the golden days. I think sometimes it is nice to see them do something in training and it comes on in the match.

We have played some good football this season. The only problem is the nil-nils and the one-alls, with three draws at home. Even last week if we had won [against Everton] we would be in a nice position in the top 10.

Today you could say we were very efficient because normally we create eight or nine chances and we score one goal and today we were different.

Jol had even a pop at Sven-Goran Eriksson, when asked if Johnson could be included in Fabio Capello’s thought should be continue scoring.

Johnson for England? What, are they going to play him out on the right like they did before? If you keep on scoring everyone says you should be in the England team but, for me, as a second striker he is one of the better ones.

He scored a hat-trick against QPR and if he could do that every game it would be unbelievable but we are not doing that. It was nice to see him score goals because his second goal was completely different to his first so that is good for a striker. It gives him a lot of confidence.

AJ delighted with brace

Andy Johnson was delighted with his brace that helped Fulham brush aside Wisla Krakow tonight and move a step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The 30 year-old striker scored two very different, but equally special goals. His first was a sublime volley from the edge of the box and his second, which made the game safe, was a deft chip over the goalkeeper was close range following a quick free-kick. It continues Johnson’s blistering start to the new campaign, making it 11 goals in 19 appearances for the season, with eight of those coming in European competition.

It was a great result tonight. They’re a good team and we found it hard at their place and the main thing is that we got the three points that we needed tonight and to give ourselves a great chance of qualifying.

I think things haven’t been going as well like the last few games since the QPR game it’s been quite tough. But things turned again tonight, the boys have been digging in.

Everyone knew it was a big game today, we’ve got another couple of games against FC Twente coming up, so it was a big three points for us and has given us a great chance now. I’m delighted. I’m just pleased to be back. I like full form. Full on fitness and training day in, day out and scoring goals which I enjoy doing.

Johnson fires four-star Fulham

Two fantastic finishes from Andy Johnson fired Fulham to a fine win over Wisla Krakow and put them within touching distance of reaching the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Fulham, determined to make up for their disappointing reverse in Poland a couple of weeks ago that was marred by a controversial red card for Moussa Dembele, were clinical in front of goal and devastating in some of their approach play as they entertained a lively Craven Cottage crowd, which included more than a fair smattering of Polish supporters. Martin Jol opted to play a strong side and it was one of his midfielders who hasn’t seen much game time of late – Damien Duff – who seized his opportunity to shine.

The Republic of Ireland winger has been omitted in favour of Dembele in recent weeks but looked hunger to prove a point this evening and was full of eager running from the off. The former Blackburn and Newcastle man had the game’s first chance when he drew a top-drawer save from Sergei Pareiko with a curling effort from the edge of the box. It didn’t take long for Duff to make his impact, though. He started and finished a flowing fifth minute move that gave the home side a deserved early lead. Duff rolled a neat pass into Bobby Zamora, who released Johnson down the Fulham right, and Duff burst into the penalty area, to finish flawlessly without breaking stride.

If the Fulham fans felt they were going to be in for an easy night after that, they reckoned without Wisla’s commendable powers of recovery. A mistake from Dickson Etuhu lost possession and Fulham stood off David Biton, who scored in the reverse fixture, who played in Lukasz Gargula. Gargula’s clever touch found Andraz Kirm and the Slovenian’s low shot cannoned off John Arne Riise and past a stranded Mark Schwarzer.

The frantic start continued as Fulham thought they’d immediately restored their advantage with their very next attack. Johnson pounced to steer home the rebound after Pareiko only parried Duff’s drive, but the assistant referee’s flag ruled it out. Those celebrations – sparked by the premature announcement of the goal by David Hamilton – might have been shortlived but Johnson was gleefully acclaiming an altogether more spectacular finish by the 30th minute. A succession of Fulham corners had tested the Wisla defence, before it finally caved in. Danny Murphy returned a half-cleared corner to the each of the box, where Johnson met it with the most majestic of volleys that flew in off the post.

Fulham more than merited their lead after Duff and Riise had both gone close with efforts from just inside the box, although Wisla always looked dangerous on the break. Kirm shot over from a very good position as the Fulham defence parted in front of him, but Clint Dempsey was inches away from recreating his memorable Juventus chip as an audacious lob beat a helpless Pareiko but skimmed the top of the crossbar. The game wasn’t without a fiery side either: Bobby Zamora and Kew Jaliens were shown yellow cards after squaring up to each other, the pantomime villain Gervasio Nunez rolled around on the floor again and the Wisla fans set off a smoke bomb that engulfed the Johnny Haynes Stand.

The visitors began the second half with plenty of gusto and the influential Gargula found plenty of space in front of Fulham’s defence. Schwarzer made two sharp saves to preserve the home side’s lead: one from a deflected Nunez effort and then a smart diving save from Gargula’s curling free-kick. Just as the Poles were looking threatening, they were punished for switching off at a set-piece. Murphy tapped it quickly to Zamora, whose clever flick found Johnson inside the six-yard box and he lifted it beyond the grounded Pareiko.

Substitute Steve Sidwell gave Fulham additional breathing space soon after replacing Murphy. His first header from a dangerous Duff cross was repelled by a combination of Pareiko and the bar, but the midfielder made no mistake with the follow-up, lashing the rebound high into the net. Jaliens headed against a post moments later, but Fulham could have finished with further goals. Kerim Frei looked bright into a brief cameo and Pareiko pulled off a superb save to deny Pajtim Kasami a fifth.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, J.A. Riise, Hangeland, Baird; Etuhu, Murphy (Sidwell 62), Duff, Dempsey; Zamora (Frei 71), Johnson (Kasami 75). Subs (not used): Etheridge, Briggs, Grygera, Gecov.

BOOKED: Etuhu, Zamora.

GOALS: Duff (5), Johnson (30, 57), Sidwell (79).

WISLA KRAKOW (4-2-3-1): Pareiko; Lamey, Junior Diaz, Jaliens, Brud (Illiev 59); Nunez, Wilk; Gargula (Genkov 60), Paljic, Kirm; Biton (Jovanovic 87). Subs (not used): Jovanic, Kurto, Boguski, Czekaj.

BOOKED: Jaliens, Diaz, Paljic.

GOAL: Kirm (9).

REFEREE: Halis Ozkahya (Turkey).


Up next: Wisla Krakow (h)

Fulham’s progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League was upset by a disappointing defeat in Krakow a couple of weeks ago and the sending off of Moussa Dembele, which so angered Martin Jol. The disgraceful play-acting of Gervasio Nunez means that Jol will be without the Belgian – a scorer at Wigan on Saturday – as the only mechanism for appealing against a UEFA red card is when mistaken identity is involved.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference yesterday, both Jol and midfielder Clint Dempsey underlined the importance of tonight’s fixture for keeping Fulham’s qualification hopes in their own hands. The Fulham boss has rotated his side regularly during the European competition this year – soething that became necessary once their season started in June – but he will field something approaching his strongest side for the visit of Poles given the tightness of Group K.

That should see Dempsey, who was rested for the reverse fixture, return to the Fulham midfield alongside skipper Danny Murphy, who was also left at home for the trip to Poland. Striker Bobby Zamora, who has also been a bit-part player in Europe so far, should lead the line and will be hoping to rekindle the form that fired Fulham all the way to the final a couple of seasons ago. Zamora has seemingly lacked the sharpness that marked his return from injury last season so far – and it remains to be seen whether he will operate as a loan striker this evening. Jol has favoured the 4-2-3-1 formation since he took over at Craven Cottage, but Zamora’s partnership with Andy Johnson has flourished when the pair have been used together.

Johnson could continue in the first eleven even if Zamora plays up front on his own, reprising his role as an advanced midfielder, which worked well at Wigan – although Jol might settle on a 4-4-2 given the need for press for a win tonight. Fulham are definitely without Orlando Sa, who injured in his hamstring in the first game between the two sides in Poland.

Injuries will also leave Fulham’s defence with a makeshift look once again. Aaron Hughes is still missing after aggravating a thigh problem in his brief substitute appearance against Everton eleven days ago, while Philippe Senderos has been ruled out with a similar injury. It means that Chris Baird, impressive in the away win at the DW Stadium at the weekend, should continue at centre back alongside Brede Hangeland and Zdenek Grygera will feature again at right-back. Jol’s only decision in midfield will be whether to opt for the added bite of Dickson Etuhu or the guile of Steve Sidwell, who played in Dembele for the clinching second goal at Wigan on Saturday. Young Kerim Frei, who has enjoyed some fleeting cameos so far this season in Europe and the League Cup, may well be amongst the substitutes once again.

Wisla’s narrow win over Fulham has revived their own hopes of qualifying through the group stages after their own campaign began with a disappointing home defeat by Odense on matchday one. The Poles come to London confident that they can be the first team to defeat Fulham on home turf in 21 European matches. They will look to the likes of forwards David Bilton, who scored the winner in Krakow, and Ivica Iliev – man of the match in that contest – to unlock a Fulham defence that has proved miserly in Europe so far this season.

MY FULHAM XI (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Grygera, Briggs, Hangeland, Baird; Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Duff; Zamora, Johnson. Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, J.A. Riise, Gecov, Sidwell, Kasami, Frei.