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Fulham 1 Aigaleo 0 - Match Report

last updated Sunday 21st July 2002, 10:11 AM
  Fulham striker Louis Saha  
  Fulham striker Louis Saha
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Fulham boss Jean Tigana will not be a happy man after another unimpressive Intertoto Cup showing against Greek minnows Aigaleo at Craven Cottage.

Boss Tigana still has a lot of work to do after his shot-shy team's turgid third-round, first-leg 1-0 success against the Athens strugglers, who only dodged the drop from the Hellenic National League by the skin of their teeth last season.

Steed Malbranque smacked a first-half volley against the crossbar as Fulham again failed to turn bucketloads of possession into goals. And that seemed to be as good as it would get for the frustrated Fulham fans, who were left chanting 'Have a shot, have a shot' as their team's hopes of winning the Intertoto Cup and securing a UEFA Cup place began to look extremely unlikely.

But Louis Saha popped up with a sweet 77th-minute strike to put Fulham in the driving seat for Saturday's second-leg tie in Greece.

New loan signings Junichi Inamoto and Martin Djetou were not available for today's match, but Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made his first appearance since an elbow operation in May.

Rufus Brevett and Lee Clark were ruled out with groin and Achilles injuries respectively.

The home side made a promising start to the final game at Craven Cottage before the outdated ground undergoes a two-year, £70million redevelopment.

Zat Knight connected with Malbranque's free-kick to bring a smart save from visiting goalkeeper Mahamadou Cidibe and the provider almost turned goalscorer in the 12th minute, when Luis Boa Morte's fine run and cross found the French midfielder at the far post. His volley smacked into the turf and unluckily bounced up to smack the face of the crossbar.

Malbranque, a £4.5million capture from Lyon last summer, was - as for so much of last season - Fulham's star man. His bright runs and precise passes on the right side of midfield offered the Cottagers' greatest threat. And from one such moment of inspiration by Malbranque, a whipped left-flank corner after 32 minutes, Abdeslam Ouaddou rose highest to send a six-yard header flashing past the far post.

Sean Davis' bouncing volley thumped into Cidibe's midriff as half-time approached.

Tigana threw on Sylvain Legwinski at the start of the second period - and the substitute showed his team-mates how to attack with a storming run that almost led to the opening goal. He elected to cross when he should have shot.

Boa Morte did have a crack when Steve Marlet laid the ball into his path after 50 minutes, but he shot straight at Cidibe with the goal yawning.

Van der Sar, who had done nothing all afternoon, was then unexpectedly called into action to palm away Ioannis Chloros' fierce strike, from the Greeks' first real attack.

Cidibe did well to gather and hold onto Davis' skidding drive after 70 minutes.

Sub Barry Hayles finally provided the incisive play the match was lacking in the 77th minute - and it resulted in the long-awaited opener.

Hayles swept a cross over from the right and fellow replacement Saha expertly controlled the ball and swept it into the bottom left corner from 10 yards.

Cidibe tipped Marlet's awkward bouncing volley over the top late on.

Van der Sar, Ouaddou (Legwinski, 46), Harley, Knight, Goma, Malbranque (Hayles, 66), Marlet, Davis, Sava (Saha, 46), Collins, Boa Morte.
Subs: Herrera, Melville, Goldbaek, Stolcers.

Goal scorer: Saha (77)

Cidibe, Komstandinos Papoutsis, Meidanis, Alexopoulos, Chatsis (Antonetti, 68), Edusei, Stesanop (Wanga, 52), Skopeletis, Christou, Fopakis, Chloros (Agritis, 61).
Subs: Kottaris, Psomas, Makris, Agritis, Sineonidis, Wanga, Antonetti.

Referee: J Ver Eecke (Bel)

Att: 5,199

Fulham play away at Aegaleo on Saturday 27th July at 19.00.
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