Danny Murphy’s strangely downbeat pre-game comments should be able to be transcribed to his post-game comments as they summed that game up perfectly:
“We played in Europe a few years ago and it became that way. If it was new and the first time I had done it in 10 years then it might be a bit more exciting.
“But it is a job at the end of the day really, to get a job done, the result and get away and on with the next one.
“Hopefully we can get away with no casualties or injuries, so if there is a lack of excitement about it forgive me.
“But at this stage it is still a job that needs doing rather than one you get excited about.”
The first half was played at a relatively slow pace, with RNK Split unexpectedly dominating the ball in the early stages. Split players seemed to be everywhere, maybe a reflection of the fact they lined up 5-3-2 and were able to flood the midfield with extra men to outnumber Murphy and Etuhu. Something did not seem right though, they were first to every ball and carved Fulham open twice to create two good chances; the first after some nice interplay on the edge of the box, the second Ivan Baraban bursting through for a one on one with Schwarzer after a simple ball over the top of the Fulham defence. Fortunately for Fulham, both efforts were tame.
The second half started more brightly for Fulham, with more movement off the ball and incisive passing. It seemed as though Martin Jol had managed to inject some urgency in Fulham, but it was not to last. Fulham were quickly back to giving the ball away and once again giving the opposition far too much space. As the game petered out, Fulham brought on Sidwell for Etuhu in an effort to link midfield and attack, but he struggled to awaken a lethargic team content with the draw. New signing ‘Hail’ Kasami was also given a cameo, particularly impressing as he nutmegged a defender on the wing and hit a nice ball across the face of goal with the outside of his boot. A late chance for Split could have ruined Fulham’s night but new signing Duje Cop shot straight at Schwarzer.
Whilst the result was by no means terrible for Fulham, 0-0 away draws in Europe rarely are, the lack of effort from many of the Fulham players was a cause for concern. Fulham will need to up their game significantly for the return leg if they are to progress in the competition, but despite the poor performance in Split, it would surprise me if Fulham were to bow out at this early stage.