European football does strange things to players. Andrew Johnson’s league form has been okay – that hat-trick is in the Fulham FC permanent scrapbook – but in Europe he seemingly can’t be stopped. Last night he nabbed two more for the collection, and what beauties they were.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Fulham scored first, early, when Duff finished off a lovely sweeping move involving Johnson and Zamora. That briefly silenced the Polish masses, although they were happy again a few minutes later when Wisla equalised with a deflected shot.
This gave us a chance to see exactly how many away fans had infiltrated home sections. Infiltrated implies some degree of subtlety though, doesn’t it? At any rate, we saw how many away fans were sitting wherever they wanted to, and indeed there were many, brazenly cheering, scarf waving and making themselves loud. I’m really in two minds about this: on the one hand, by the unofficial laws of football fandom this is “a terrible thing” and indicative of “taking the piss”, on the other it contributed to an amazing atmosphere with plenty of good natured fun (no really). If we remove the whole territorial pissings element (hard to do, I appreciate) then segregation is a curious concept: altogther necessary, usually, but also somewhat false. If Fulham fans had bought up all the tickets there wouldn’t have been any spare for the Wisla fans, and, let’s face it, we haven’t had a better atmosphere in the ground since the last European run, and even then I don’t know if it was as good as last night.
Perhaps this was because we sat next to the away fans in the Johnny Haynes stand, a deliberate move aimed at taking in a good bit of shouting. True, the flares and smoke were a bit iffy for a wooden construction, but even they added to the atmosphere.
All of which surely added to the quality of what we saw on the pitch. With the score at 1-1 AJ belted a volley across himself and into the top corner, one of those “what?” moments when you question what you’ve just seen, not least because it was a very un-AJ goal. Credit to the man for showing technique I didn’t know he had. The European scene seems to agree with him, eh?
Clint Dempsey then wormed his way through several challenges before hitting the bar with a chip – what a goal that would’ve been.
We got another when Murphy pinged a free-kick to Zamora, who turned the ball on first time into the path of Johnson, who dinked it over the goalkeeper from close in. A first class move that reminded me of Zanetti’s World Cup goal against England (1998?); a good idea, beautifully executed. Like all of the best things, it looked so simple. A fourth came when Steve Sidwell bundled home after an initial effort (his? Dempseys?) had been palmed onto the bar following a corner.
Beyond the goals the match itself was lively and entertaining. Wisla’s players were largely pretty tidy, with the hated Nunez particularly prominent (Etuhu cleaned him out in the second half with a thumping, legal, but dangerousish tackle). The 4-1 scoreline perhaps flattered us, but perhaps also reflected the difference in quality between the sides.