Europa League - Classy Juve down Fulham

Eurosport - Thu, 11 Mar 21:55:00 2010

Fulham were outclassed at the Stadio Olimpico as Juventus struck three first-half goals to establish a 3-1 lead in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

Nicola Legrottaglie Juventus - 0

Nicola Legrottaglie (pictured) rose imperiously to head the Bianconeri into a ninth-minute lead, and fellow defender Jonathan Zebina made it two after 25 minutes with a stunning strike from the edge of the Fulham box.

Dickson Etuhu narrowed the deficit with a deflected drive as the Cottagers pinched a valuable away goal, but David Trezeguet inflicted a hammer blow on the stroke of half-time to restore Juve's two-goal cushion.

In what was billed by many as the biggest game in the club's history, Roy Hodgson employed Bobby Zamora as a lone striker as Clint Dempsey was passed fit to assume a spot on the substitutes' bench.

Juventus stamped their authority on the match with some mesmeric spells of possession early on, and Legrottaglie capitalised on some slack marking to put the hosts ahead with a powerful downward header.

Damien Duff provided a potent outlet for the Cottagers. The Irishman surged down the right at pace before cutting a precise ball back from the byline for Simon Davies, but the midfielder scuffed his 17th-minute effort wide.

Zebina made it two with a rasping strike from 25 yards after the Juventus full-back cut inside from the right and drove a low shot beyond Mark Schwarzer midway through the first half, the hosts brimming with confidence.

But Fulham pegged back Alberto Zaccheroni's side courtesy of Etuhu's opportunist effort in the 36th minute, as Jonathan Greening's delivery was met with a crisp drive which took a vicious deflection off Legrottaglie and left Alex Manninger flat-footed.

Zoltan Gera came agonisingly close to equalising in the 41st minute as Brede Hangeland won a commanding header in the Juventus box from Duff's cross, but the Hungarian could not quite divert the ball past Manninger from close range.

Juventus deserved to hold the ascendancy, and the hosts' two-goal lead was restored as Trezeguet fired a ferocious shot against the near post before the Frenchman stabbed home the rebound inside a crowded Fulham penalty area.

Fulham were justified in feeling aggrieved at the third goal with Trezeguet's strike coming well after the allocated two minutes of stoppage-time, and no restart was possible following the ball being picked out of the net.

The second half was a drab affair as both sides scrapped in midfield to no avail, and Dempsey's introduction on the hour mark could inject no further creativity.

Greening compounded his manager Hodgson's frustration as he was shown a yellow card midway through the half for a clumsy foul on Antonio Candreva, an infringement which rules the midfielder out of the second leg.

Diego, who was instrumental for the hosts in the first half but faded away in the second, leapt back into life with a fierce shot from range in the 88th minute, but Schwarzer was sharply across his line to parry the ball wide.

It was an ultimately frustrating evening for Fulham, but Hodgson will believe that, with the away goal in hand, an early goal in the second leg at Craven Cottage could reignite the tie.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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