Hodgson relishing showdown in Switzerland after vital win

FULHAM manager Roy Hodgson is relishing the must-win match with Swiss side Basle after his team kept their Europa League hopes alive by beating CSKA Sofia last night.

The former Swiss boss will take his side to St Jakob-Park on December 16, knowing that a victory is required to take Fulham into the knockout stages.

Zoltan Gera earned them victory at Craven Cottage with a first half strike.

Needing to match Group E rivals Roma on the night, Roy Hodgson’s men did their part with maximum points against their Bulgarian opponents, who only had Luboslav Penev in the dugout for the second half after the coach nearly missed the trip due to a travel ban.

Danny Murphy, making his first appearance in six weeks after a knee injury, missed a penalty but Gera headed home to spare his captain’s blushes. They travel to Basle on Wednesday, December 16 still with a slim hope of reaching the last 32.

Hodgson said: “I’m pleased we won the game and kept a clean sheet.

“There were an awful lot of positives from our point of view. Now we give ourselves a chance in the final game.”

“I thought the first half performance was really good. It was a shame it was only 1-0 at half-time,” Hodgson said.

“If it was 2-0 or 3-0 which I think we deserved it would have been an easier second half.

“Unfortunately for us they managed to exert pressure but it pleased me we managed to stand up to that pressure.”

Sofia struck the crossbar early on through Todor Timonov but only genuinely threatened when he emerged in the second half.

Murphy’s ninth-minute penalty came when Gera was fouled by Ivan Ivanov,. Murphy’s ring-rusty spot-kick was sidefooted over the crossbar.

The hosts, however, were ahead in the 15th minute when Bjorn Helge Riise won a 50-50 ball after a corner was cleared, he dashed down the right flank and crossed for Gera to nod home from close range.

With Penev in the dugout for the second half, Michel was brought on and set up Todor Yanchev, with Stephen Kelly required to make a tackle in the six-yard area. Towards the end sub Damien Duff was needed to clear off the line when Kosta Yanev got a shot through a ruck of players. CSKA felt they should have had a penalty for a Kelly handball just before the effort.

FULHAM: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Smalling, Hangeland (Hughes 46), Kelly, Riise, Baird, Murphy (Duff 78), Gera, Davies (Dempsey 70), Zamora.

CSKA SOFIA: Chavdarov, Minev, Vidanov, Ivanov (Yanev 63), Kostadin Stoyanov, Todorov (Rui Miguel 72), Yanchev, Popov, Morozs, Timonov (Michel 54), Delev.

Referee: Pavel Balaj (Romania).

Last night’s results: Europa League:Group D: Sporting Lisbon 1 SC Heerenveen 1; Ventspils 0 Hertha BSC. Group E: AS Roma 2 Basle 1, Fulham 1 CSKA Sofia 0 Group F: Dinamo Bucharest2 Sturm Graz 1; Galatasaray 1 Panathinaikos 0. Group J: Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Club Brugge 0; Toulouse 1 Partizan Belgrade 0. Group K: FC Copenhagen 2 CFR Cluj 0; PSV 1 Sparta Prague 0. Group L: Austria Vienna 0 Ath Bilbao 3; Werder Bremen 4 Nacional 1.


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