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Fulham 0 FC Haka 0 - Match Report

last updated Saturday 06th July 2002, 6:22 PM
Fulham's first European adventure began on Saturday - but it could end next Sunday after FC Haka goalkeeper Mihail Slawuta pulled off a catalogue of fantastic saves to deny Jean Tigana's expensively-assembled side at Craven Cottage.

Slawuta's heroics earned his Finnish club a 0-0 draw in this Intertoto Cup second round, first leg clash.

     
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And the Scandinavians will now be hopeful of pulling off a victory back home at their Tehtaan Kentta Stadium in the second leg next weekend - if they adopt more positive tactics than the negative approach used today.

After a dreadful opening 25 minutes, which would not have been out of place in a summer kickaround on the beach, Fulham picked up the pace and enjoyed a constant succession of chances.

Jean Tigana's men went close on half a dozen occasions before the break, with Steve Marlet's curler the best of the lot, bringing a sensational tip on to his crossbar by Slawuta.

It was a similar story after the interval, with a barrage of chances for the home team and Slawuta again in magnificent form.

Louis Saha was unlucky when his strike was agonisingly deflected onto the woodwork and Fulham's chances of reaching the UEFA Cup now look shaky.

Fulham's World Cup heroes Steve Finnan and Eddie Lewis were rested for this game.

Edwin van der Sar (elbow) and Lee Clark (calf) also missed the match, which was played in front of a 7,908 crowd.

The limited attendance was due to safety certificates not being issued to two ends of the ground Fulham leave later this month for two years' redevelopment.

For FC Haka, fourth after 11 games in this season's Finnish championship, top scorer Valeri Popovitch was absent due to his fear of flying.

Olli Huttunen's men - thumped 9-1 by Liverpool in last season's Champions League - had beaten Yugoslavian outfit Obilic in the first round to earn this clash with Fulham.

But the pace of the game remained distinctly pedestrian - with Haka notably unadventurous - until the half-way point in the first period.

Steed Malbranque's industry down the left wing was a powerful feature of Fulham's game last season. And from one such trademark burst, he rolled the ball square for John Collins to send a shot skidding past the far post.

And Fulham went closer still twice inside three minutes just before the half-hour.

Sean Davis lashed a sweet 20-yard volley a foot over the top and Marlet unleashed a curling drive which Haka goalkeeper Slawuta spectacularly tipped onto the top of his crossbar.

It was all one-way traffic now, with giant striker Peter Kovacs the visitors' only player with any inclination to attack.

Slawuta also did very well to save Davis' close-range effort after another impressive burst by Malbranque.

And Fulham's new £2million signing Facundo Sava was even closer to the first goal four minutes before the break. The Argentinian lunged at a loose ball after Slawuta saved Malbranque's curler - but could not quite stretch enough to score on his debut.

Haka started like a different team after the break, with towering frontman Kovacs meeting skipper Harri Ylonen's cross and forcing Cottagers goalkeeper Maik Taylor to save within seconds of the kick-off.

But Fulham hit back, first with Saha's 20-yard strike which deflected off Lasse Karjalainen and against the crossbar and then with Marlet, whose point-blank header was well blocked by Slawuta.

And the impressive keeper again came to his side's rescue to smother Marlet's shot after Saha's tidy through-ball after 59 minutes.

Slawuta was having an afternoon to remember - with Abdeslam Ouaddou the next Fulham player denied, this time from a flashing six-yard header.

The Slovakian referee waved away penalty appeals when Saha went tumbling in the area after a rough challenge by Jarkko Okkonen in the 83rd minute.

And the official and his linesman did not see Ville Vaisanen's wild flailing arm which sent Fulham's Bjarne Goldbaek tumbling to the ground late on. The Finnish striker was lucky to escape punishment.

Fulham: Taylor, Ouaddou, Melville, Goma, Harley, Davis, Collins, Malbranque (Goldbaek 78), Marlet (Boa Morte 71), Saha, Sava (Hayles 60).

Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Knight, Hudson, Legwinski.

Booked: Malbranque.

FC Haka: Slawuta, Karjalainen, Pasoja, Ylonen, Innanen (Vaisanen 79), Ristila (Aalto 64), Ruhanen (Koivuranta 78), Rantala, Kovacs, Okkonen, Kangaskorpi.

Subs Not Used: Vilmunen, Koskinen, Torkelli, Pasanen. Booked: Rantala, Okkonen, Ylonen.

Att: 7,908 Ref: L Gadosi (Slovakia).

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