Fulham 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 1
Fulham striker Bobby Zamora struck a brilliant winner to round off a miserable trip to London for Europa League champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
Just two days after the squad was denied entrance into Harrods – owned by Cottagers chairman Mohamed Al Fayed – for looking scruffy, Shakhtar lost a match they looked destined to win comfortably.
Zoltan Gera marked his recovery from a knee injury by firing the opener with just two minutes on the clock, although Shakhtar will be unhappy with keeper Andriy Pyatov’s role in the goal.
But then it was one-way traffic as the Ukrainians, inspired by their five-strong Brazilian contingent, outclassed Fulham who clung onto their precious lead until the half hour mark.
Luiz Adriano pounced for the equaliser and a second seemed imminent but Fulham survived until half-time and then clawed back some of the initiative.
Zamora struck the decisive blow in the 63rd minute, unleashing a thunderous 20-yard shot that rattled the crossbar and crashed home for his 14th goal of the season.
It was a magnificent strike that gives Fulham hope of progressing in the competition, although big-spending Shakhtar will console themselves with an away goal ahead of next Thursday’s second leg.
Fulham raced out of the blocks and would have taken the lead after just 50 seconds but Pyatov reacted swiftly to save Brede Hangeland’s header at the far post.
The Shakhtar keeper was culpable when Fulham powered ahead in the third minute, however, after sharp passing from Danny Murphy and Zamora split open the visiting defence.
Zamora laid on a brilliant chance for Gera and although the Hungarian’s shot lacked menace, it still slipped beneath Pyatov who got a despairing hand to the ball.
Stunned into action, the strike provoked a flurry of activity from Shakhtar aided by Hangeland losing the ball too easily and keeper Mark Schwarzer producing a dismal goal-kick that fell straight to the dangerous Fernandinho.
Jadson saw a shot blocked by the busy Hangeland before captain Darijo Srna fired wide from 25 yards out.
Fulham were buckling as they struggled to contain the speed and movement of their opponent’s Brazilian contingent.
In the 32nd minute they cracked, Ilsinho slipping a beautifully weighted pass between Aaron Hughes and Kelly to his fellow Brazilian Luiz Adriano who easily beat Schwarzer.
Shakhtar cranked up the pressure but had Srna booked on one attack after the right-back made a meal of a challenge by Kelly.
Shakhtar displayed their counter-attacking skills when Zamora was caught dithering on the edge of the area, stripping him of the ball and then breaking clear through William.
The only way of halting the jet-heeled midfielder was for Murphy to nudge him over and the Fulham skipper was booked as a result.
The Cottagers were beginning to look more threatening with Zamora holding the ball up well and Damien Duff proving a handful down the left flank.
Shakhtar occasionally looked suspect at the back and in the 63rd minute they were undone by a pile-driver from Zamora.
The ball was quickly played out of defence by Hangeland to Gera, who spotted an unmarked Zamora and the Fulham marksman pulled the trigger on a 20-yard shot that struck the underside of the crossbar before crashing home.
Gera and Zamora then had chances to produce a third, but both players directed their headers at Pyatov.
Shakhtar had lost momentum and their forays forward lacked the conviction of earlier, although some hesitancy in Fulham’s defence ensured home fans were subjected to a nervy finish.
The real heart-stopping moment came when Schwarzer produced a magnificent save from Fernandinho deep into injury time.