This was Martin Jol’s first game in charge as manager and is as far as I can tell the earliest ever competitive fixture in our history.
We had sneaked into the Europa league by virtue of our fair play record although it could have been seen as a poison chalice with such an early start potentially disrupting preparations for the new season. Mark Hughes had decided we weren’t the equal of his ambition which meant that Jol finally arrived a year after we had first tried to acquire him.
THE LINE UP
Jol would probably have much preferred to have a run of friendlies to bed in his ideas for the new season. However, with the fantastic run to the Europa final still fresh in our minds, the club were no doubt keen to take it seriously again. Jol, therefore, selected a near full strength side to take on the minnows from the Faroe Islands. With our visitors in the middle of their season, it was likely to be a trickier test bearing in mind our squad had only come back from their summer break days earlier.
Fulham’s line up included nine of the side that had started our final in Hamburg 13 months earlier with Matthew Briggs and Andy Johnson in the team instead of the now departed Paul Konchesky and Zoltan Gera.
Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Briggs, Davies (Riise 69), Etuhu (Sidwell 73), Murphy, Duff, Johnson, Zamora (Dalla Valle 79).
BBC MATCH REPORT
Goals from Damien Duff, Danny Murphy and Andrew Johnson gave Fulham a three-goal lead after the first leg of their Europa League qualifier against NSI Runavik at Craven Cottage.
Duff broke the deadlock when finishing off a sweeping team move with a low shot across keeper Andras Gango. Bobby Zamora had chances to increase the lead, but was denied by Gango. Murphy made it 2-0 from the spot after Simon Davies was brought down before Johnson beat Gango from 12 yards.
It was an assured performance from the Premier League side in Martin Jol’s first game as manager, although the recently-appointed former Tottenham boss sprang something of a surprise by naming his strongest possible starting line-up.
The Dutchman had hinted he would blood youngsters during the early rounds but instead named a side packed with experience against the minnows from the Faroe Islands.
The home side started strongly and within the opening minute Johnson came close to breaking the deadlock, but HelgiPetersen blocked well after neat build-up play by Murphy and Zamora.
Duff gave the hosts the lead in the 32nd minute, thumping home from 18 yards after a decent team move from Fulham. And the Londoners were unlucky to go into half-time only one goal up, with keeper Gango in fine form for the visitors.
The second half proved as one-sided as the first, with Zamora dragging a right-footed shot inches wide of the far post early on.
But soon after, Davies was felled by Helgi LamhaugePetersen when showing nifty footwork inside the box and Murphy slotted the ball into the bottom left of the goal from the penalty spot to make it 2-0.
Johnson then got his name on the scoresheet, firing low across Gango into the corner of the net. And the score could have been even greater had it not have been for Gango who denied Zamora – who then hit the woodwork – while the keeper later tipped Johnson’s strike onto the crossbar.
Murphy attempted a speculative effort in a last bid to get the 14,910 fans on their feet again but Fulham were restricted to a three-goal advantage heading into next week’s second leg.
Fulham manager Martin Jol:
“If I say it is job done, you will tell everyone I said the job was done so I will say it’s a good score
“We started off brightly the first five minutes and then it was difficult to find the spare man up front.
“The second half was better. If there was no possibility to play it up to Andy Johnson or Bobby Zamora you have to play down the flanks and the second half was better.”
Attendance – 14,910
DID YOU KNOW?
Fulham were the first club to make it to the Europa League group stages having started from the first qualifying round. Defeating NSI Runavik, Crusaders, RNK Split and Dnipro before the competition had even begun.
Fulham saw out a goalless draw in the return leg a week later and got through a further three qualifying rounds before the League season even started by overcoming Crusaders, RNK Split & Dnipro.
With a draw for the group stage more preferable on paper than the one we had in 2009-10, there were high hopes we could again reach the knock out stage. We stuttered our way along but still went into the final game at home to already-eliminated Odense knowing a win would see us through. We cruised into a 2-0 lead but when the Danes pulled a goal back we strangely seemed to be overcome with nerves. We should still have seen the game out but lost possession needlessly and conceded a soft equaliser in the very last minute that knocked us out. It was an extremely disappointing way to end our journey into Europe and was synonymous with the way Jol’s reign was to pan out.
Some eight years have passed and sadly we haven’t ventured back into European competition since & don’t look likely to do so any time soon.