Zam's the man as Cottagers progress

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Zamora, tipped last week by manager Roy Hodgson as just the kind of player England will need at the World Cup, capped a classic centre-forward's performance with two goals just before the interval. The much-maligned striker has now scored four in his last three games and he led the powerful Basle defence a merry dance all evening, before being replaced to a standing ovation from the 1,200 travelling Fulham supporters. Zoltan Gera put Fulham 3-1 ahead with a neat side-footed finish after Basle had profited from a dubious penalty awarded against Chris Smalling. Although Basle set up a nervous last few minutes with a late second, Fulham held out to join group-winners Roma - plus the likes of Champions League losers Liverpool, Juventus and Atletico Madrid - in the last 32 of the competition. Hodgson will be happy to maintain his attitude of indifference to the Europa League if Fulham continue to play like this, given they were without at least eight first-team regulars. Brede Hangeland, Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey started on the bench to ensure they are fresh for Saturday's Premier League appointment with Manchester United, which Hodgson, unlike Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, deemed a priority. Erik Nevland, Paul Konchesky and Chris Baird were all suspended and while injured duo Andrew Johnson and Simon Davies did not travel, Fulham did at least have Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu back. With Fulham travelling well in the Premier League - one defeat in 10 matches - Hodgson has used Europe to give his fringe players an opportunity to shine. Bjarne Helge Riise supplied both crosses for Zamora's double strike just before the interval and he set the tone in the first minute with a teasing ball that just evaded the on-rushing Jonathan Greening. Zamora and Riise caused the Basle defence problems throughout the first half and they almost combined to open the scoring after 15 minutes. The Norway international launched one of his customary raids down the right but delayed his ball through to Zamora a fraction too long and the Fulham striker had strayed fractionally offside before driving the ball low into the corner. Basle's centre-backs were struggling to contain Zamora's physicality and he was frustrated to be called back again by the referee after wrestling his way past Abraham and into the box. At one stage it appeared as if that frustration would get the better of Zamora when he booked for a careless challenge - but it Basle's creaking resistance that snapped first. Fulham launched a swift counter-attack from a dubiously awarded free-kick, Riise swung a perfectly-weighted cross into space behind the Basle defence and Zamora threw himself at the ball to score from six yards. Zamora then executed a text-book piece of centre-forward play, chesting the ball down for Riise to surge down the right before arriving at the far post to head Fulham into a two-goal lead at the interval. Zamora's confidence was flowing and after earning a free-kick on the edge of the box with a clever piece of trickery, his low strike was deflected and forced a smart diving save from home keeper Massimo Colomba. Basle, who were unbeaten at home in Europe this season, began to build the pressure as Fulham sat deeper and they were gifted a route back into the game just after the hour with a highly dubious penalty. Substitute Federico Almerares skipped into the box and his cross struck Smalling in the stomach - but on the advice of an assistant referee, Swedish official Stefan Johannesson awarded the penalty and Alexander Frei scored. But Gera, another of those given his chance in Europe, soon sealed Fulham's victorious passage into the last 32. Dempsey, who had just come on for Greening, sent Stephen Kelly clear down the left and pulled a low cross that Gera side-footed into the corner. Basle's towering striker Marco Streller scored three minutes from time to set up a nervous finale but Fulham held out for a well-deserved victory.