Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

UEFA Europa League – Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 10, 2010
HSH Nordbank Arena

The HSH Nordbank Arena, more commonly known as Volksparkstadion, is the venue for the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League final

The first ever UEFA Europa League final will take place in Hamburg on Wednesday, May 12th and for the two finalists, Fulham FC and Club Atlético de Madrid, it is an exciting climax to what has already been an eventful season. Roy Hodgson’s Fulham side have been the surprise package of the competition in which they’ve knocked out the defending trophy holders Shakhtar Donetsk as well as Italian giants Juventus FC, German champions VfL Wolfsburg and the team expected to play a final in their home stadium Hamburger SV. On the other side Quique Sánchez Flores has seen his Atlético side flourish in Europe’s second competition after their elimination from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Los Rojiblancos have seen off quality opposition in the form of  Galatasaray, Sporting Lisbon, compatriots Valencia CF and five-time European champions Liverpool FC. Atlético will wish to cap off a wonderful season by winning their first European trophy since their European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph of 1961-62 whilst the Cottagers from West London hope to win their maiden piece of continental silverware in their first European final. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” takes a look back at both teams’ road to Hamburg:

Atletico de Madrid logoCLUB ATLÉTICO de MADRID (Spain)

After defeating 2008-09 Greek League runners-up Panathinaikos in the UEFA Champions League Play-Off round Club Atlético de Madrid played in the group stages of Europe’s elite competition but were well off the pace as Chelsea FC and FC Porto topped the table to leave los Rojiblancos floundering in third place. Atlético finished in third place above APOEL Nicosia by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Cypriot champions. Following their UEFA Champions League disappointment the Madrid side have found their form in the UEFA Europa League and here is their road to the final:

Round of 32: v Galatasaray 3-2 aggregate (First leg 1:1 Second leg 2:1)

This was always expected to be a tough game played in two notoriously intimidating stadiums with the first leg played in Madrid. José Antonio Reyes gave Atleti the lead after 23 minutes before Keïta equalized for the Turkish side on 77 minutes. The second leg was an thrilling contest which was capped off with some late drama. Simão Sabrosa gave Atlético the lead after 63 minutes only for Keïta to restore parity three minutes later. Just as extra-time was looming up stepped Diego Forlán with a last-gasp winner to take the Spanish side through to the next round.

Round of 16: v Sporting Lisbon 2-2 aggregate (First leg 0:0 Second leg 2:2) Atlético win on away goals

Portuguese giants Sporting were unlucky to leave the Estadio Vicente Calderón goalless as they had the best chance in the game to break the deadlock, Liédson hitting the crossbar just before half-time. Sporting were disadvantaged for the return leg, however, as they had Leandro Grimi and Tonel sent-off during the match in Madrid. In what was a topsy-turvy first half in Lisbon Sergio “Kun” Agüero gave Atleti the lead after just three minutes only for Liédson to equalize sixteen minutes later. Agüero restored Atleti’s lead on 33 minutes but back came Sporting with a first half stoppage time equalizer from Polga. Atlético held out to claim an away goals victory to set up an intriging tie against compatriots Valencia CF in the next round.

Quarter-Finals: v Valencia CF 2-2 aggregate (First leg 2:2 Second leg 0:0) Atlético win on away goals

The first leg in this tie was played at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestalla and proved to be another dramatic away tie for Atlético. After a goalless first half Diego Forlán gave Atleti the lead on the hour mark before a thunderbolt from Manuel Fernandes restored parity for Los Che. A header from defender Antonio López returned the lead back in favour of the visitors but any hope Atlético had of going to the home leg with a precious lead were dashed when David Villa equalized for Valencia with eight minutes to go. In the return leg both sides saw efforts hit the woodwork in a game of few real chances and no goals, a result which saw Atlético reach their first European semi-final for eleven years.

Semi-Finals: v Liverpool 2-2 aggregate (First leg 1:0 Second leg 1:2 AET) Atlético win on away goals

Liverpool were disappointing in the first leg of this tie allowing Atlético most of the possession. With the first leg in Madrid the home side needed to escape without conceding and they had no worries in that department as the Reds created few chances while their arch nemesis Diego Forlán proved to be the difference as he scrambled home from short range to give los Rojiblancos a first leg lead. The second leg at Anfield was a dramatic affair with Alberto Aquilani giving Liverpool the lead just before half-time and with no further goals after ninety minutes extra-time had to be played. After Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool the advantage with a well struck shot past keeper Sergio Asenjo it was to be the Uruguayan Forlán who would break Scouse hearts yet again with a well-taken shot from inside the box past Pepe Reina. Atlético had ridden their luck but held out to progress once again on away goals and qualify for their first European final since losing to Dynamo Kyiv in the 1985/86 Cup Winners’ Cup.

Fulham FC badgeFULHAM FC (England)

When the Craven Cottage club embarked on the beginning of their European journey only the most optimistic of Fulham supporters would’ve dreamt that they would be playing in the final in Hamburg. After defeating Lithuanian club FK Vėtra 6-0 on aggregate in the third qualifying round Fulham had to embark on another trip to eastern Europe in the Play-Off round, this time to Russian outfit Amkar Perm. Fulham squeezed past the Russians with a 3-1 home win followed by a 1-0 defeat in Russia. Martin Kushev scoring in the 90th minute of the second leg to give the Cottagers a nervy finish to the game, not the first time that this would happen in the tournament. This allowed Fulham to qualify for the group stage:

Group Stage: (AS Roma played 6/13 points; Fulham FC 6/11; FC Basel 6/9; CSKA Sofia 6/1)

Diomansy Kamara got Fulham’s UEFA Europa League group stage campaign off to a good start away at CSKA Sofia capitalising from a defensive mistake to give Fulham the lead on 62 minutes in Bulgaria before a quick reply three minutes later from Brazilian Michel Platini gave CSKA a 1-1 draw and their only point of the tournament. A solo Danny Murphy goal gave Fulham all three points at home to Basel on Matchday 2 before suffered last minute heartbreak against an AS Roma who didn’t know they were beaten and were rewarded when a stoppage time equalizer gave the Giallorossi a share of the points after Brede Hangeland had given Fulham a first half lead. On Matchday 4 Fulham were defeated for the first time when going down 2-1 to AS Roma in the Stadio Olimpico. Diomansy Kamara had given Fulham the lead from the penalty spot but John Arne Riise and Stefano Chuko Okaka scored late in the second half to turn the game on its head. Zoltán Gera scored the only goal on Matchday 5 to keep Fulham’s chances of progression alive when defeating CSKA Sofia by a goal to nil to set up a last match decider with FC Basel. In Switzerland Bobby Zamora gave Fulham a two goal cushion before half-time but Alexander Frei converted from the penalty spot to pull one back in the second half. Gera made it 3-1 late on but Basel came back again to make it a nervous finish for Fulham who held out to reach the Round of 32.

Round of 32: v Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 aggregate (First leg 2:1 Second leg 1:1)

Fulham were the outsiders to go through after they were drawn against the last ever winners of the UEFA Cup Shakhtar Donetsk. Fulham, though, made the most of the first leg at the Cottage as Zoltán Gera and Bobby Zamora were on the scoresheet, sandwiched by a Luiz Adriano effort for Shakhtar, to give Fulham a 2-1 win to take to Ukraine. In a tough encounter in Donetsk Brede Hangeland scored midway through the first half to increase Fulham’s aggregate lead but Shakhtar came back through Jádson to set up a grandstand finish. Fulham held out to progress to the next round where they would meet Italian giants Juventus FC.

Round of 16: v Juventus FC 5-4 aggregate (First leg 1:3 Second leg 4:1)

This is one of the most memorable ties in European football this season. Fulham went down to a first leg away defeat at three-time former UEFA Cup champions Juventus. Nicola Legrottaglie and Jonathan Zebina gave the Old Lady a 2-0 lead before Dickson Etuhu halved the deficit with one of the flukiest deflections anywhere. David Trezeguet scored in first half stoppage time to give Juve a 3-1 lead which was how it remained for the rest of the game. Fulham’s hopes of a comeback seemed shattered after just two minutes of the second leg when Trezeguet gave the Italians the lead. But Fulham were patient and gradually worked their way back into the game. Bobby Zamora and Zoltán Gera gave Fulham a 2-1 half time lead and the latter extended Fulham’s lead on the night to 3-1 from the penalty spot to level the aggregate scores at four all. The next goal would prove to be the most crucial and the most spectacular when Clint Dempsey chipped Juve keeper Antonio Chimenti with eight minutes left to seal the turnaround of turnarounds at the Cottage.

Quarter-Final: v VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 aggregate (First leg 2:1 Second leg 1:0)

After the drama of Juve came another tense finish in the first leg at Craven Cottage against German champions VfL Wolfsburg. After Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff had given Fulham a two goal lead inside four second half minutes the Germans came at the home side with wave after wave of attack to try and force the away goal. After the home side had defended so well for so long the Germans broke through with one minute of regular time to play after Alexander Madlung sent a bullet header past Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer. The late drama at the Cottage was counterbalanced by the early drama in the return leg in Lower Saxony after Bobby Zamora gave Fulham the lead one minute into the game and from there Roy Hodgson’s men never looked back. A famous semi-final against further German opposition awaited the Cottagers in the final four of the competition.

Semi-Final: v Hamburger SV 2-1 aggregate (First Leg 0:0 Second leg 2:1)

After a goalless draw in Hamburg the scene was set for arguably Craven Cottage’s most famous night, and there have been plenty of those this season. The game was a strangely quiet affair for the first twenty minutes but then came the first pivotal moment of the match when Mladen Petrić struck a beautiful free-kick from outside the box to give HSV the lead. With the score remaining 1-0 at half-time Roy Hodgson must’ve given his most inspirational team talk yet to inspire his troops to further glory in this competition. Simon Davies equalized for Fulham on 69 minutes with a beautifully crafted goal which had it have been scored by Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo would’ve had everyone talking for years. Seven minutes later Zoltán Gera tapped in from short range to send the hoardes of home supporters into ecstasy and, of course, set up the traditional nailbiting finish to a Fulham European tie. Try as they might Hamburger SV couldn’t break through to claim that all-important second away goal and when the final whistle blew Fulham fans’ attentions turned to returning to the home of their defeated opponents.

One Response

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  1. 3stylefemale said, on May 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Hi there, just to let you know that for the final, UEFA have launched their new online magazine –

    The UEFA Europa League has proved in its debut season that many teams, and many wonderful fans, across the continent can share in the desire, adventure and glory of European football. And now Fulham FC and Club Atlético de Madrid, two of Europe’s strongest teams, meet in Hamburg. UEFA hopes this new online magazine – combining action footage, fans’ adventures and player interviews – will whet your appetite for Wednesday night.

    In addition to all the other great content, the site also contains a competition to win tickets to next season’s final

    Have a look, pretty good



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