Fearless Fulham continue Euro quest

Bobby Zamora’s 19th goal of the season after just 21 seconds at the
Volkswagen Arena secured a 3-1 aggregate success after a
disciplined performance from Roy Hodgson’s side. The German
champions rarely threatened the Cottagers, who will now face
Hamburg for a place in the final. Zamora was a constant threat and
his performance was even more impressive given that he had been a
doubt before the game with an Achilles injury. Chris Baird was
preferred to fit-again Stephen Kelly at right-back while Wolfsburg
defender Jan Simunek replaced the injured Alexander Madlung, who
scored a late away goal for the Bundesliga champions in last week’s
first leg. Zamora’s return was a welcome boost for Fulham, who had
beaten the likes of Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the last
eight of the competition. Hodgson had stressed the need to pressure
Wolfsburg early on and his side duly obliged by taking the lead
after just 21 seconds. Zoltan Gera laid the ball off to Zamora, who
performed a clever turn to shrug off Simunek on the edge of the box
and beat Diego Benaglio with a calm finish. The early goal seemed
to settle any nerves and Fulham could have had a second six minutes
later but Gera was denied by a fantastic save from Benaglio. A rare
error from captain Danny Murphy allowed Christian Gentner in at the
other end but his shot was tipped around the post by Mark
Schwarzer. Wolfsburg struggled to get a grip on proceedings in an
up-tempo game but thought they had equalised in the 12th minute
before Grafite’s effort was ruled out for offside from Andrea
Barzagli’s cross. Gentner’s inswinging corner then left Schwarzer
flapping but otherwise Fulham looked in control of the tie, with
Murphy and Dickson Etuhu firmly winning the battle in midfield.
Zamora’s strike meant the Germans would have to score twice to
force extra time and the home crowd began to vent their frustration
at a lack of creativity. Highly-rated Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko,
who has been linked with a move to Chelsea, reminded Fulham of the
threat he posed by flicking on a dangerous Zvjezdan Misimovic
corner across the box in the 29th minute. Dzeko found himself in
the book soon after for kicking the ball away after referee Viktor
Kassai had blown up for a petulant push on Brede Hangeland.
Wolfsburg manager Lorenz Gunther Kostner replaced defender Peter
Pekarik with Ashkan Dejagah and the striker almost made an
immediate impact but his dangerous low cross was cut out by Aaron
Hughes. The game came to a brief standstill soon after half time
when Davies had to receive treatment after clashing with Wolfsburg
captain Josue while going up for a header. Fulham went close to
sealing the win just before the hour when Murphy’s clever chip
played Zamora through. The Fulham fans held their breath but the
striker’s first touch let him down and Benaglio came out to stifle
his tame shot. Dejagah was then booked for dissent before Kostner
threw on former Newcastle man Obafemi Martins, leaving Wolfsburg
with four strikers on the pitch. Some of the home supporters began
to leave with 20 minutes left as Wolfsburg continued to waste
possession. Murphy shot over after turning two defenders while
Zamora and Gera continued to pose a threat. Dzeko then reminded the
remaining crowd why he is such a highly-rated player when he forced
Schwarzer into a brilliant one-handed save with a volley from the
edge of the box. Simon Davies then beat the offside trap but saw
his shot turned over by Benaglio’s outstretched leg. The visiting
fans, sensing victory, chanted “Zamora for England” before the
striker had a headed goal ruled out for offside with 15 minutes
left. Fulham had a golden chance to seal the win with 10 minutes
left but Murphy’s shot was cleared off the line by Barzagli.
Hangeland then scrambled back to clear Grafite’s shot off the line
after he reacted quickest to Dzeko’s shot that had rebounded off a
post.