On This Day In 2010: Fulham Thrashed Juventus 4-1
Four years? It certainly doesn’t feel it. Mind you, it’s quite hard to forget beating Juventus 4-1. Everything from that night is still relatively fresh in my mind. From the pre-match walk, to the reaction I got at school the next day.
The first leg saw us outclassed by a top European side, with Dickson Etuhu’s attempt to hit the corner flag wildly deflecting into the net. This thankfully gave us the away goal to maintain hope of progressing in the second leg. We had to overturn a 3-1 deficit, and to the tune of that season, there was immense hope we could do it.
In the 2009/2010 season, I went into every home game thinking we could leave victorious. This is far from the case in the present, but that belief back then demonstrated what we were capable of. Teams like Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea would come to Craven Cottage and be wary of getting anything out of the game.
I vividly remember rushing home from school to make the 6pm kick-off, and the excitement was quite something. I was used to midweek fixtures against Port Vale in the cup, not against the likes of the mighty Juventus. The Europa League opening anthem still gives me shivers, despite it’s Eurovision feel, as it brings back so many good memories.
Inside, the Cottage was rocking like no other night. However, the early breed of hope was quickly diminished as David Trezeguet slotted home within the opening two minutes for the visitors. This left us trailing 4-1 on aggregate and gave us quite a mountain to climb. I remember leaping from my seat and shouting a collection of obscenities. I genuinely thought that was it, stupidly I felt like leaving.
To be frank, I was being a spoilt little brat. Here we are, clashing Italian giants Juventus in European competition, and I’m moaning about the proceedings on the pitch. Nothing changes. But this was out of my sheer belief that we could conquer them - and I was to be proved right.
It’s virtually impossible to describe the feeling of the roller coaster that we were to endure that night. I have never experienced something quite like it, and probably never will again (on a sporting level). The noise, the passion, the twists, the anticipation, the quality, everything just screamed magic.
Following Trezeguet’s opener, all seemed lost. However, we hit back within minutes thanks to a cross by Konchesky landing on Zamora’s trusty chest. Whilst shrugging World Cup winning skipper, Fabio Cannavaro, off the ball, the former Brighton man smashed in an equaliser, and the mood significantly increased. It was on.
After this, I remember Zamora playing an inch-perfect ball through to Gera. The Hungarian raced through and the legendary Cannavaro brought him down outside the box. Having been the last man, he was sent off and belief was back once again. I still can’t quite get my head the fact that Cannavaro was outclassed by the pairing of Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora, let that sink in. Despite being on the pitch for the small matter of 27 minutes, he was run ragged.
Having put the keeper at full stretch from the resulting free-kick, a massive roar went up. I received a number of phone calls and texts from friends during the game saying “you’re gonna do this aren’t you.” I didn’t want to quite believe them just yet, the extent of the task ahead of us was huge, even against 10-man Juventus.
With ten minutes to go before half-time, Simon Davies played a ball from a set piece in and it smacked against the woodwork. Juventus were looking more rattled than the crossbar in question and I was nervously fidgeting like a school kid in detention. The following corner landed on Etuhu’s head, and once again the woodwork came to the Old Lady’s rescue.
We only had to wait another two minutes before we rippled the net once more. The build-up to this goal was a piece of art in my eyes. The ball from Konchesky to Zamora to Davies and then to Gera to smash the ball into the roof of the net, orgasmic. That was it, my usually pessimistic nature had disintegrated and the picture of me only 35 minutes ago was looking rather disgruntled.
Zamora was single-handedly ripping them to shreds, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. We went into the break and everyone around me look wide-eyed, and quite frankly shocked. My eyebrows were so far raised, they had disappeared as a feature upon my simple face. Sitting with my dad, we hardly exchanged words at the interval, we could only produce responses of “blimey, what on earth is going on?”
Three minutes into the second-half and were rewarded with a penalty. A contentious decision, like the red card, to say the least. But with all the shirt pulling and several penalty appeals being turned down in the opening 45, it was justice well served. I have a rule of turning my back to penalties at matches, but my mind was so frazzled by proceedings that I had completely forgotten.
Nevertheless, with Danny Murphy missing through suspension, a certain Zoltan Gera stepped up and smashed it in. Cue the complimentary acrobatics and Craven Cottage descending into insanity. We were level in the tie and had more than 40 minutes to find a winner. I’m meant to describe what my feeling was, but I genuinely can’t remember a thing. Everything seems to go blank until the fourth goal.
After 20 or so minutes of strangely nothing to report, Clint Dempsey came on to replace Stephen Kelly with less than a quarter of the game to go. A bit of frustration began to surface as expectation grew and slowly started to be questioned as the minutes went by.
What happened next will never be forgotten.
As the 82nd minute struck, Etuhu played, what I thought, was a rubbish, bobbling ball to Dempsey. The American then gathered his feet and swiveled like an office chair. Just outside of the area he looked up and produced the unthinkable and chipped the ball straight over the goalkeeper’s head. Did he mean it? Who cares? I certainly don’t. Where I sit is virtually near dead on to where he scored, and the ball took so long to go in. In my lifetime, I have never waited for a ball to hit the back of the net as long as I did in that instance.
I lost all control of my body, my arms were flying everywhere, I was falling into people, trickling down rows of seats. I had no idea how to comprehend what had just occurred. I don’t think anybody did to be perfectly honest. Most people around me were crying their eyes out with happiness, and that explained it all. Fulham had been through an unbelievable amount of struggle as a club, and many never thought such a day would come, but it had. Gone where the days of the possibility of the club disappearing, or turning into a block of flats. Gone were the days of sitting at the foot of the football league. Special doesn’t quite explain it.
The ensuing ten or so excruciating minutes felt like a lifetime. Every attack Juventus mustered looked to end in a goal. A second goal from the Italians, and we’d be out of the Europa League. This didn’t stop the Cottage producing a deafening din.
As full-time approached, Jonathan Zebina stupidly lashed out at Damien Duff, and a second red card was to be shown. That’s when it started to sink in what we had just achieved. Everybody in the stadium on their feet, I took a look around and thought to myself “you’re never gonna see this again, take it in.”
As the whistle blew, I sat back down with my hands on my face, completely stunned. I couldn’t quite believe what had happened.
The players were celebrating on the pitch for some time, and even the Juventus away following clapped them off. Our performance that night can only be described as out-of-body. I think you get the jist of it.
Follow Jaik on Twitter, @JaikBFenton