Fulham produced a stunning second-leg comeback against nine-man Juventus to make the Europa League quarter-finals.
David Trezeguet appeared to have ended the tie with an early goal for Juve but Bobby Zamora soon fired Fulham level.
Fabio Cannavaro’s sending off for a professional foul on Zoltan Gera swung the game in Fulham’s favour before the Hungarian’s neat finish put them ahead.
Gera’s penalty levelled the tie overall and substitute Clint Dempsey’s chip won it before Jonathan Zebina was sent off.
Fulham fans have been treated to some inspiring Europa League football this season, and their side did not disappoint, once again putting on a gripping and passionate display.
The Cottagers, trailing 3-1 from the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico di Turin, still retained hope of reaching the last eight due to Dickson Etuhu’s solitary away goal.
That Juventus did their utmost to extinguish such fragile belief by taking the lead inside three minutes and still failed is largely a testimony to the spirit and belief that permeates through Roy Hodgson’s side, and partly owing to the controversial decision of referee Bjorn Kuipers to send off Cannavaro.
The intent of Cannavaro’s foul – the result of a clash with Gera as he eyed a clear route to goal – was uncertain and there was a likelihood that Zebina could have covered the Hungarian midfielder’s run but Kuipers felt a goal-scoring opportunity had been denied and showed the Italian national captain a straight red.
The dismissal ended what had been an albeit brief mauling for Cannavaro at the hands of the Fulham front line, and England hopeful Zamora in particular, who made good on his pre-match promise to get the better of the World Cup winner.
The Italian was brushed aside with ease by the big frontman, who then fired the ball into the net from 10 yards to bring Fulham level on the night after Trezeguet’s opener.
It was a timely response to Juventus’ third-minute strike, scored by the French forward via a well-taken side-foot finish to the corner of the net after Fulham had failed to clear a Hasan Salihamidzic left-wing cross.
Cannavaro’s dismissal in the 26th minute was equally well-timed for the home side, giving them the majority of the game in which to capitalise and they almost did so immediately from the free-kick resulting from the defender’s costly foul.
Juve’s 39-year-old third-choice goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti made an error-strewn first start of the season against Siena at the weekend as the Turin side let slip a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3, but he was on hand to tip Zamora’s set-piece over the bar.
Twice later in the half Chimenti was beaten, but on both occasions the woodwork came to his rescue, firstly from a Simon Davies free-kick from the left and then from Dickson Etuhu’s header from a corner.
But neither goalkeeper nor goal frame could prevent Fulham taking the lead on the night in the 39th minute.
Again Zamora was central, flicking cleverly to Davies on the left and from the midfielder’s first-time cross Gera was on hand to side-foot into the roof of the net from six yards.
Just four minutes into the second half Fulham levelled the tie.
A backheel from Gera released Damien Duff and when Diego’s hand cut out the resulting cross in the box, a penalty was awarded which the Hungarian duly dispatched with aplomb for his second of the game.
After a lull in the tempo of the match, Hodgson introduced Dempsey from the bench in place of Stephen Kelly and with practically his first touch – a header from a Davies cross – he would have put Fulham ahead overall for the first time in the tie but for Chimenti’s save.
The American midfielder did not have to wait long for his moment to win the tie for his team and when it came he claimed it in sensational style.
Collecting the ball on the edge of the area, and with the Juve defence backing off, Dempsey produced a stunning chip that floated over Chimenti and into the far top-corner of the goal.
The goal sparked delirium from the home crowd and petulant displays of frustration from the Italians during the remainder of the match.
One of these was to further tarnish their evening as defender Zebina kicked out at Duff on the right-hand touchline and was deservedly dismissed in stoppage time.
It was an unsavoury moment on which to end the match but nothing was to deny Fulham their jubilant and richly-deserved denouement.
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