Europa League - Zamora gives Fulham edge

Eurosport - Thu, 18 Feb 22:00:00 2010

A fantastic strike from Bobby Zamora gave Fulham a slight advantage over holders Shakhtar Donetsk after an entertaining 2-1 win at Craven Cottage for the Whites in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash.

FOOTBALL Europa League Fulham's Bobby Zamora and Shakhtar Donetsk's Tomas Hubschmann at Craven Cottage - 0

Zamora smashed an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box that crashed against the bar and bounced over the line, adding to Zoltan Gera's goalkeeper-aided early goal.

Luiz Adriano had equalised for the visitors, who at times over-ran Fulham but rarely found the finish to match their delicate passing moves.

Fulham had keeper Mark Schwarzer to thank for the win on the night as, despite rarely being tested in the match, he pulled off a superb save in injury-time to deny Fernandinho an equaliser.

Shakhtar started like a team in the middle of pre-season and the West Londoners exploited it as Brede Hangeland went close with two early headers before Gera struck a fortuitous opener.

At the start of the third minute, Oleksandr Kucher slid wildly to clear Danny Murphy's through ball, missing it completely and allowing the Hungarian midfielder to drill a low shot that Andriy Pyatov should have stopped but allowed to squirm through his body.

The reigning champions woke up soon afterwards though and switched into the passing dominance that one expects from a starting XI containing five Brazilians.

Initially they lacked a cutting edge, with 22-year-old striker Luiz Adriano often outmuscled by Hangeland and Aaron Hughes.

But they passed Fulham into a daze and just after the half hour Croatia wide-man Darijo Srna fired a low drive wide after one such spell of possession saw Fulham camped in their box for a full minute.

The warning sign was not heeded when, a minute later, Shakhtar sliced through Fulham in a split second, with Ilsinho sliding Luiz Adriano through to finish low past Schwarzer.

The Ukraine-based side dominated possession for the rest of the half - at one point Fulham did not get a touch for nearly two minutes - but they did lack a cutting edge and Fulham almost made it 2-1 on the break when Simon Davies flicked Damien Duff's cross wide.

Fulham were brighter in the second half as the sides exchanged attacks and counters without either keeper being tested.

Gera went down easily in the box under a challenge from Srna and, while there was the slightest contact, it was not a push and referee Serge Gumienny correctly waved his appeals away.

The direct attacking approach yielded results for the Cottagers thanks to a moment of magic from Zamora.

A quick break saw Gera release the striker with a super flick but, on the edge of the box and with defenders in his way, he had it all to do.

Zamora elected to shoot first-time and hammered a thundering drive in off the crossbar as Pyatov stood and watched - assuming he even saw it.

Having scored arguably the finest goal of his career and his 14th of the season, Zamora proceeded to bully the visiting defence as Shakhtar - while still passing well - lost their drive, seemingly stunned by the strike.

Gera could have made it three after rising highest to meet Damien Duff's cross, but he headed straight at Pyatov: Zamora should have made it three minutes later but headed wide when Murphy's free-kick found him unmarked.

The introduction of another Brazilian, winger-playmaker Douglas Costa, gave the visitors some renewed vigour as they put Fulham under a spell of sustained pressure.

But for all their nice passing they seemed to lack the belief to shoot and Schwarzer looked on as his defence dealt with the threat.

The last few minutes saw Fulham on the back foot as Shakhtar moved the ball with ease, Costa and Fernandinho pulling the strings.

And, in the first minute of injury time, Australia's Schwarzer showed why a team can only be as good as its keeper when he clawed away a Fernandinho strike that was destined for the top right after Shakhtar pounded the Whites' box with their scintillating one and two-touch play.

Fulham held on and take a slender lead to the second leg in Ukraine next week.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account