Rampant Fulham demolish Juventus
Clint Dempsey admitted his gamble had paid off after his stunning strike earned Fulham a 4-1 win over Juventus to send the Cottagers into the last eight of the Europa League.
Even the most optimistic of Fulham fans would have doubted their team’s ability to turn the tie around after last week’s 3-1 opening leg defeat in Turin.
And Roy Hodgson's side — which included Northern Ireland internationals Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird — had looked down and out after an early goal by David Trezeguet had stretched the Italians' aggregate lead to 4-1.
However, Bobby Zamora cancelled Juventus' lead on the night and when Zoltan Gera struck twice the comeback was well and truly on.
Dempsey then struck an audacious long-range chip which eluded goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti and went into the top-left corner to earn the west London side a famous 5-4 aggregate win.
The Italians experienced a miserable night which was compounded by the dismissals of Fabio Cannavaro in the first-half and Jonathan Zebina the end.
Match-winner Dempsey, commenting on his late strike, said: “I just thought, what the heck and tried to put it in the far post and it went in.
“Nine times out of 10 you won't make it, but sometimes you've got to take a risk. It's great, we showed a lot of heart and character to fight back, but we are in the next round.”
It is less than two years since Fulham only escaped relegation from the Premier League at the death and Dempsey added: “It's life, everything changes and you have to keep working hard.”
Dempsey will appear for the United States at the World Cup this summer with Zamora currently an outside bet for England.
The American would not be drawn as to whether his Craven Cottage team-mate should be selected, saying: “It's not up to me to make the decision, but I wish him the best because he has been great for us.”
Manager Hodgson admitted he especially enjoyed the victory given his former involvement with Inter Milan, saying: “I've tried to like them, but beating Juventus is something special on all occasions.”
He also paid tribute to his team's resilience after their early setback, which looked to have all but handed the tie to the Italians, adding: “We tried to give them a bigger lift by conceding a goal after one minute 40 seconds or something, but I was really impressed by how the players put that behind them and carried on playing. I still thought we could win the game.
“When Bobby equalised and we got the second I thought, who knows? We could do something if we played as well in the second-half and that is what happened.”
He went on: “Bobby Zamora was outstanding....it was a fantastic team performance.”
Hodgson will find out who his team will face next in the compe
tition when the draw for the quarter-finals is made in Nyon this afternoon, at 2pm.
Until then Hodgson can sit back and take stock of what has been a remarkable European campaign which began with a 3-0 qualifying win over Lithuanian minnows Vetra in July.
“To get to the quarter-final of this competition is extremely good because we played our first match at the end of July and we will still be playing in this competition next month.
“When I reached the final as manager of Inter Milan our European campaign was nowhere near as long as this one has been, I think it encompassed 12 games.
“By the end of the next match we'll have played 16 games and it is a remarkable achievement that the boys have done so well.”
Juventus manager Alberto Zaccheroni, meanwhile, said Cannavaro's red card after 26 minutes, which was issued for pulling back Gera, turned the game .
“We are disappointed with the result,” he said.
“We feared Fulham and they played well but as soon as we went down to 10 men we struggled. I have seen the replay of the incident and I think the referee was too strict.”