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All English final beckons as Fulham & Liverpool storm through to Semis

April 9, 2010

Zoltan Gera, Roy Hodgson and Mark Schwarzer share a smile as Fulham see off Wolfsburg in Germany

Forget about the Champions League, it’s the Europa League that is bringing the most success to English clubs this season, with both Fulham and Liverpool through to the Semi finals of the competition after respective wins over Wolfsburg and Benfica.

With no English Semi-finalist in the more illustrious of the two competitions for 7 years, Hodgson’s Fulham and Benitez’s underachieving Liverpool have done the nation proud, and now lie just two matches away from an all English final in Hamburg at the end of the season.

Fulham’s route through has been spectacular, with victories over holders Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus, the latter having been 4-1 down on aggregate at one stage. As for Liverpool, their journey through has been a little more straight forward with wins over Unirea Urziceni and Lille before seeing off the tough challenge of Portuguese League leaders Benfica.

Fulham can now look forward to a Semi-final against Hamburg, who have their sights set on reaching the final staged on their home turf. Liverpool are up against Atletico Madrid who saw off Spanish counterparts Valencia on away goals to secure a reunion with Fernando Torres.

Both English clubs will face away ties first before the second legs at home, played on the 29th of April.

Wolfsburg (1) 0-1 (3) Fulham
Fulham travelled to Germany in a rather precarious position having won the first leg at the Cottage by 2 goals to 1. Despite getting a much desired victory, Wolfsburg’s away goal, courtesy of a late Alexander Madlung header in the 89th minute, had made them slight favourites. However, the night couldn’t have started much better for Hodgson’s men, as the in-form Bobby Zamora further stated his claims for an England World Cup spot with a brilliantly taken goal after just 22 seconds.

Despite having a goal disallowed in the first half, and hitting the post, Wolfsburg were unable to break Fulham’s resistence and Zamora’s goal proved to be the decider.

Liverpool (5) 4-1 (3) Benfica
It was a similar story at Anfield as Liverpool looked to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg against a Benfica side unbeaten in 27 games in all competitions. Benfica clinched the first leg after coming from behind, with two Oscar Cardozo penalties in the second half. Liverpool would be without Ryan Babel and Emiliano Insua, both banned after the first match in Lisbon.

Liverpool started nervously but slowly grew into the game, and Dirk Kuyt gave them the lead after 28 minutes with a header from point-blank range. There was slight controversy as the linesman on the far side put his flag up to indicate Kuyt was offside, before the referee over-ruled him and awarded the goal. Just 6 minutes later and Lucas Leiva doubled Liverpool’s advantage and put them ahead on aggregate with a superbly taken goal. Gerrard’s through ball was met by a perfectly timed run by the Brazilian who rounded ‘keeper Cesar to slot home in front of the Benfica fans.

15 minutes after half time and it was 3 for the Reds, as an out of soughts Fernando Torres finished off a wonderful counter-attacking move to seemingly put the game beyond doubt. An Oscar Cardozo free kick added a sense of tension to the occasion but that didn’t last long as Torres completed the scoring with a sumptuous chip over the onrushing substitute ‘keeper Moreira.

It was a thoroughly satisfying night for English football, and fans of Fulham and Liverpool can now look forward to mouth-watering Semi-final ties against strong opposition.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 11:08 am

    I was delighted Fulham beat Wolfsburg. Living in Germany, I experienced first hand the arrogance of Wolfsburg and the German media in general with regard to Fulham. I watched the draw live on Eurosport. The commentator was practically praying one of the German clubs got Fulham. The Wolfsburg delegation in the studio were all grinning and backslapping when the draw was finished. I guess they’re not quite so pleased now! Hopefully they’ll knock out HSV too.

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