Juventus 3-1 Fulham: Clinical Bianconeri Take Charge Of Europa League Tie

Juve earn a healthy lead to take to Craven Cottage next week.

A clinical first half display from Juventus saw them grab a vital 3-1 victory over Fulham in their Europa League last 16 first leg match at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin.

Goals from Nicola Legrottaglie, Jonathan Zebina and David Trezeguet saw off the Cottagers, whose away goal from Dickson Etuhu will give them a glimmer of hope ahead of next Thursday's second leg.

Juve started with David Trezeguet as their lone striker, with club captain Alessandro Del Piero left on the bench, whilst Fulham had an attack consisting of Bobby Zamora and the slightly withdrawn Zoltan Gera.

After an even start, with Diego and Zamora each spawning early attempts, it was Juventus who grabbed a ninth minute lead. Diego’s right wing corner was a good one, and Nicola Legrottaglie met it with a bullet header from 10 yards which caught Mark Schwarzer and his defence cold.

Nicola Legrottaglie - Set the ball rolling will Juve's first

Fulham responded by attempting to hold onto possession more, feeding Damien Duff down the right whenever possible. From one such move, the former Newcastle man crossed low for Simon Davies 12 yards from goal, but the Welshman completely miscued and ended up laid flat on the turf as Juve were allowed to clear.

The Bianconeri were soon attacking themselves, and a slowly built move led to a sight on goal for Antonio Candreva, but the youngster couldn’t keep his shot down.

The home side were starting to look more confident on the ball and they duly doubled their lead on 25 minutes. Candreva ran hard at Paul Konchesky before laying the ball back to Jonathan Zebina. With seemingly nothing on, Zebina beat Davies and shrugged off Etuhu before drilling an excellent right-foot shot across Schwarzer from just outside the box.

By now Juve were having all sorts of fun, and Fabio Grosso should have done better from a good crossing position, with Trezeguet and Candreva waiting, after great work by Diego had seen him pass two men before finding the Italy full-back.

Claudio Marchisio could then have put Grosso in down the left, but overhit his pass from the channel. And in the 36th minute, Fulham got themselves right back into the tie.

Simon Davies’ free-kick from the left wasn’t cleared, and the ball ricocheted to Dickson Etuhu, whose swinging shot cannoned off Legrottaglie and beyond the wrong-footed Alex Manninger to secure a priceless away goal for the Cottagers.

And it was so nearly 2-2 four minutes later, Brede Hangeland heading a right wing corner towards goal, forcing Manninger to make a smart stop with Aaron Hughes in close proximity. Grosso was able to hook clear and keep Juventus ahead.

This gave Fulham even more reason to believe, and Manninger suddenly became more than just a spectator as the Italians were made to work to retain their lead before the interval.

But, amazingly, Juventus managed to extend their lead on the stroke of half-time. Grosso had a clean left-foot strike tipped over by Schwarzer after Fulham had been caught cold on the break. From the resulting corner David Trezeguet hit the post with his first effort, but the rebound fell kindly for the Frenchman and he steered a shot across Schwarzer at the second attempt.

Despite having a two-goal advantage at the break, it was the Old Lady who made a change ahead of the second half, with Mauro Camoranesi replacing Hasan Salihamidzic on the right of midfield.

Fulham started the second half cagily, perhaps troubled by the thought that the concession of a fourth goal may well have ended the tie as a contest. The additional threat of Camoranesi on the right was also giving the Londoners reason to think.

Legrottaglie could well have repeated his first half trick when another headed chance came his way from a right wing corner, but this time he was much less clinical, sending his effort well over Schwarzer’s bar.

Roy Hodgson made his first change on the hour mark, introducing the more attacking Clint Dempsey for Simon Davies. The return of Dempsey after serious injury will have brought a smile to the face of USA coach Bob Bradley as well as all concerned at Fulham, given that he will likely be an important member of the Americans’ World Cup squad this summer. Juve then gave a run-out to Vincenzo Iaquinta, another South Africa hopeful returning from injury, for his first European appearance since October as a replacement for Trezeguet.

The away side forced their best chance of the half on 62 minutes. Hughes’ free-kick was headed across goal by Zoltan Gera, but it flew just behind Bobby Zamora as he tried to wriggle free of his marker at the far post.

Juventus kept trying to force further attacks, clearly wanting to kill the tie off, but this always gave hope to Fulham on the counter. It was from a breakaway that the Whites could have pulled one back on 75 minutes. Zamora got free down the right before feeding Duff. When he was held up by Fabio Cannavaro, the Irishman chipped a ball in for Zamora, whose touch to Chris Baird seemed to have made a chance for the full-back, but he’d strayed offside.

The game continued to be played at a decent pace as both sides had good reason to seek another goal ahead of the second leg at Craven Cottage. Diego and Iaquinta both came close to grabbing a fourth for Juve in the dying moments. First the Brazilian had a sizzling shot from 20 yards parried by Schwarzer, then the Italian’s header sailed just wide from the resulting corner as Fulham held onto their slim hopes of progression to the quarter-finals.

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