Austrian striker arrived off the bench to finally capitalise on the home side's dominance as Martin Jol's team offered little going forward and eventually paid the price
Andy Johnson’s late red card further compounded a frustrating night for the visitors, who were minutes away from securing a point which, in all likelihood, would have left them needing just a point from their final group match against Odense in order to secure qualification.
Now, a Wisla Krakow win against Twente will leave the Cottagers needing three points themselves against the Danish side.
Fulham manager Martin Jol made four changes to the side that drew with Arsenal on Saturday. Stephen Kelly’s return from injury saw him step in for Chris Baird at right-back while Aaron Hughes relieved Philippe Senderos in the centre of defence.
Damien Duff was also passed fit to play and started on the wing. Moussa Dembele dropped back from attack to play opposite Duff with Clint Dempsey injured and Bryan Ruiz cup-tied. Johnson partnered Bobby Zamora up front.
Twente striker Janko returned from injury but only to the substitute’s bench, leaving the highly-rated Luuk de Jong to lead the line once again. Nacer Chadli was preferred to Ola John out wide.
Jol spoke of the attacking threat of Twente before the match but Fulham looked comfortable as they sat deep and suffocated the home side’s forward movement in the early stages.
After Chadli had gently brought Mark Schwarzer into the game with two tame efforts, Leroy Fer tested the Australian with a placed shot from the edge of the penalty area after good play from De Jong.
Fulham were adequately containing Twente but struggling to support Zamora in attack. Johnson and Moussa Dembele switched positions in an attempt to spark the visitors into life but only an excellent, albeit marginally too long, pass from Danny Murphy that nearly set Johnson through on goal brought Nikolay Mihaylov into the game.
Just prior to that chance the Cottagers’ attacking hopes had suffered a blow when Duff was forced off with a recurrence of the calf injury that has troubled him in recent weeks. The 18-year old Austrian midfielder Kerim Frei replaced him.
Midfield battle | Chances were few and far between for both sides in the first half
Young forward Ola John, the brother of former Fulham striker Collins, was introduced in place of Fer at the interval as Co Adriaanse looked to throw another man into attack. Chadli switched to the right flank with Bajrami, effectively kept under wraps by John Arne Riise in the first half, playing just off of De Jong.
Kelly, although sometimes troubled by Chadli in the first half, had offered Fulham an occasional attacking outlet down the right-hand side. His surge down that wing after 51 minutes resulted in a cross that Johnson was just beaten to at the near post.
John had added much more width to the Twente attack as he looked to hug the left touchline before breaking inside, and the change was beginning to stretch Fulham. After John’s floated cross had just evaded de Jong at the back post, Twente came straight back on the attack in the next phase of play and Bajrami shot only narrowly wide from 25 yards.
The opening goal nearly came from the unlikeliest of sources. Central defender Douglas, who successfully kept a lid on Zamora, marched through a huge gulf between Dickson Etuhu and Murphy in the Fulham midfield but couldn’t keep his 20-yard shot down.
Douglas nearly turned creator a couple of minutes later – but at the wrong end of the pitch. His clearance struck Dwight Tiendalli and fell to Johnson, but the former Everton man dragged his shot wide.
Johnson will have been disappointed not to have hit the target but less so than De Jong, who wasted a golden chance shortly afterwards. John cut in and crossed from the left and a badly executed offside trap left the 21-year old with a completely free header, which he flicked wide from no more than eight yards out.
Twente were almost made to pay the price when Zamora met a well-designed set piece, but the big forward missed the target by a matter of centimetres. Murphy, feigning a cross from the right from the dead ball, had cut a pass back to allow Zamora to poke the ball at goal.
Fulham probably could have been forgiven for thinking a point was relatively safe as Twente somewhat half-heartedly launched late raids in the direction of the Cottagers’ penalty area. Having already qualified, the Dutch side were perhaps not as desperate for a winner as they might normally have been.
They got one all the same. The forward-thinking Roberto Rosales was allowed to surge into space down the right-hand side and his cross was met by substitute Janko, with Kelly guilty of allowing the striker to move across him in the penalty area too easily.
More late misery was still to strike in what was so nearly a solid evening’s work. After conceding a free-kick, Johnson needlessly kicked the ball away and picked up a second yellow card for his efforts, ruling himself out of the now vital final group stage fixture against Odense.
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