Funny how you can look at the same thing in different ways. Last Thursday at the Cottage Clint Dempsey headed a third and there we were thinking ‘that’s nice’ and dreaming ahead to where we might end up in the group stages. Then tonight the same two teams had it out in Ukraine and Fulham can thank their lucky stars that they didn’t lose the tie.
They should have. Dnipro spent most of the game circulating around the Fulham box, free-kick after free-kick whizzing in then landing somewhere not quite dangerous. Chances came, were snatched at or blocked or something else, and in the end Fulham finished with as one sided a 1-0 defeat as you’ll see. Pajtim Kasami might have equalised on the break late on, skying his chance in front of an empty net (to be fair, he was on the run and the ball was moving across him, but he should have scored), but other than that we offered very little.
Dnipro were a bit unfortunate in the first leg, too, a fair flurry of activity almost bagging an away goal. Here was different, in that they kept the ball well and had no problem pinning Fulham back. The goal came from a corner, Hangeland heading on at the near-post, a forward stealing in between Hughes and the goal-line to score. It’s the sort of goal we used to concede when John Paintsil was around – not sure what the excuse is this time.
I suppose you can look at that pressure and the slim defeat and judge that the team defended well, and perhaps there’s something to that, but this was a far from impressive performance. It’s tempting to say ‘job done and let’s move on’, except the job is only done if we accept that the team has more in its locker for when we play the better teams. On current evidence it’s hard to know what to think about that.