Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

UEFA Europa League: Semi-Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 21, 2010
Roy Hodgson

Fulham FC coach Roy Hodgson has had plenty to smile about in the UEFA Europa League this season.

The semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League are approaching this Thursday with two very intriging ties. Liverpool FC, thrice winners of the old UEFA Cup, have made the journey to the Spanish capital and are ready to face battle against Club Atlético de Madrid. Meanwhile surprise outfit Fulham FC, who have had some glory European nights this season, will hope to add Hamburger SV to the list of high-profile scalps and, thus, deny the German side a place in the final to be played at their home stadium on Wednesday, May 12th. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews the last four:

HAMBURGER SV (Germany) v FULHAM FC (England)

Will the fairy tale ever come to an end for Fulham FC? All fans of the Cottagers will be hoping that they’ll be returning to the northern German port of Hamburg for the inaugural UEFA Europa League final next month. Roy Hodgson’s men will be hoping that their defeat of another German club, VfL Wolfsburg, in the quarter-finals will prove to be a good omen. Hamburger SV, on the other hand, are determined to salvage something from what is fast becoming yet another disappointing season. Their fans have high expectations that the club can go one better than last season, when they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup semi-finals to northern rivals Werder Bremen, and are desperate to lift the trophy on home soil.

Having already disposed of last season’s UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian giants Juventus FC and German champions VfL Wolfsburg in the knock-out rounds of the competition Fulham FC face another mammoth task in the form of HSV. Domestically Fulham FC are unbeaten in their last three games with a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic and two goalless draws against fellow Europa League semi-finalists Liverpool FC and relegation threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers. On the European stage Fulham continue to surprise having overcome the challenge of VfL Wolfsburg in the last round. The first leg at Craven Cottage saw the London side score two goals in the space of three minutes around the hour mark thanks to Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff before the Germans pulled one back with just one minute of regular time to go thanks to a powerful header from Alexander Madlung. For Fulham the disappointment of conceding late in the first match, however, was counterbalanced by the euphoria of scoring early in the second. Bobby Zamora added to his tally of goals after just sixty seconds to seal another famous win for Fulham.

Hamburger SV have stuttered under coach Bruno Labbadia as the season has progressed and there are reports that many of the players in the team have lost faith in him. Despite this the club have reserved their best performances for the UEFA Europa League, no doubt hoping to satisfy the levels of expectation before their home public to reach the final in May. Domestically it has been mixed form in recent weeks for HSV who drew 0-0 at home to struggling Hannover 96 before beating VfL Bochum 2-1 and losing their most recent league game at home to 1.FSV Mainz 05 by a goal to nil. However the Hanseaten secured a priceless couple of wins in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals against Belgians Standard de Liège. Having gone behind at home in the first leg HSV came back with two quickfire goals before half-time thanks to Mladen Petrić and Ruud van Nistelrooy to take a 2-1 lead into the second leg. Croatian intenational Petrić scored twice in the first half to increase HSV’s lead before his replacement as substitute Paulo Guerrero sealed the deal to give the Germans a 5-2 aggregate victory to take them one step closer to a first European final since they beat Juventus FC in the former European Champions Cup in 1983.

Diego Forlan

Diego Forlán scores against Valencia CF in the quarter-finals to take Atlético de Madrid through on away goals

CLUB ATLÉTICO de MADRID (Spain) v LIVERPOOL FC (England)

This game should’ve heralded the return of former Atleti hero Fernando Torres to his old club but, unfortunately for Liverpool, he has been told that his season is over due to the extent of a knee injury which he picked up in the last round against SL Benfica. Nonetheless this game will be interesting as it will test the energy of the Liverpool squad who have had to travel to the Spanish capital using various methods of transport due to the aviation crisis that has affected Europe in the last week since a certain Icelandic volcano erupted.

Los Colchoneros still have hopes of reaching a second cup final this season having already secured their place in the Copa del Rey against Sevilla FC to be played at the home of arch-rivals Real Madrid CF on May 25th. Unfortunately for Atlético they have taken their eye off the ball in La Liga recently having lost their last three matches against RCD Espanyol, Deportivo Xerez and Villarreal CF as they attempt to juggle the demands of three different competitions. In the quarter-finals Atleti secured a 2-2 draw away at Spanish rivals Valencia CF thanks to goals from Diego Forlán and Antonio López and rode their luck in the second leg where they held out for a 0-0 draw to go through on away goals.

Liverpool FC’s troubles have been highlighted by many this season but in the UEFA Europa League they seem to have found a competition in which they’ve impressed many. The club still harbour slight hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League but this looks unlikely as the Reds are still five points behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur having played a game more. Their last three Premier League games have included two draws against Fulham FC and Birmingham FC but they did easily see off the challenge of struggling West Ham United on Monday with an easy 3-0 win. In the Europa League quarter-finals two penalties from Portuguese league leaders SL Benfica coupled with a red card for Ryan Babel saw Liverpool go into the second leg trailing 2-1, an early Daniel Agger goal keeping the Reds close. In the second leg Liverpool were cruising with a 3-0 lead on the hour mark thanks to goals from Dirk Kuijt, Lucas and Fernando Torres before Oscar Cardozo made life slightly uncomfortable for the home side when pulling a goal back on 70 minutes. But Liverpool’s passage to the final four was sealed when Fernando Torres scored his second goal of the night to give the Reds a 5-3 aggregate win.

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