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Gera helps Fulham to draw

last updated Friday 23rd July 2010, 9:40 AM
Fulham scorer Zoltan Gera
Fulham scorer
Zoltan Gera
Zoltan Gera
Fulham were held to a 2-2 draw by Swedish battlers Halmstad on Thursday evening, with the Whites unable to add to Zoltan Gera's double strike.

Caretaker manager Ray Lewington fielded a strong starting line-up, with eight of those involved in last season's UEFA Europa League Final.

Back on European shores for the first time since that memorable night in Hamburg, the Whites started positively in an attempt to build upon their impressive pre-season form.

Play that was rewarded with a goal after just eight minutes, with last year's Player of the Season, Zoltan Gera, and heading in Simon Davies' deflected shot following some clever play from Bobby Zamora.

Fulham certainly dominated the early proceedings with Danny Murphy looking sharp; the captain dictating the play and probing balls in to the final third.

Zamora lost his marker before being denied by a brave tackle from Halmstads captain Johnny Lundberg from one such pass, while Davies forced Karl-Johan Johnsson into a decent low save, again from some positive play from our skipper.

At the other end, Halmstads did have their moments, with Emil Salomonsson blasting a free-kick into the Fulham wall and Marcus Olsson thwarted superbly by a last ditch intervention from Stephen Kelly.

Tenth in the Swedish Allsvenskan and one competitive game back from a summer break during the World Cup, the hosts by no means looked a push over; with competitiveness and determination coursing through their play.

And it was from such endeavour that the home side levelled, with David Stockdale spilling Salomonsson's strike from distance into the path of Joe Sise, who gladly accepted the invitation by lifting the ball into an empty net on 24 minutes.

The 20-year-old showed his attacking prowess again moments later, ghosting on to Anel Raskaj's slipped pass to finish low and to the left of Stockdale to give Halmstads the lead.

Sise then turned creator, skilfully slipping the attention of Aaron Hughes before dinking the ball into the path of Olsson, who forced a fine reflex save from the Fulham shot-stopper with an angled drive from the left.

Fulham closed the half to a hopeful appeal for a spot-kick when Zamora went down under Tomas Zvirgzdauskas's challenge. The Whites certainly had their moments, with further goals expected after the interval.

But it was the hosts that came out racing, with Amir Kujovic rattling the Fulham bar with a swerving strike from the edge of the box and Alexander Prent firing wide with a volley.

Seeing more of the ball, Damien Duff did break down the right, and his pin-point delivery was met by Zamora's timely conviction, unfortunately Johnsson had read the striker's header well, claiming the ball with confidence.

Duff then jinked his way passed Joalim Wrele to roll the ball to Gera, and the Hungarian showed his goal-scoring ability once more, crashing in with a splendid 20-yard strike on 58 minutes.

As Halmstads pushed to take the advantage once more, Stockdale made two brave claims under pressure, while Chris Baird denied the taller Kujovic with an impressive leap.

One of four substitutes midway through the second half, Bjørn Helge Riise did well to move Johnsson into a fine save, with the Norwegian creating space with a clever twist and strike.

The vocal travelling Fulham faithful, including many of our friends from Scandinavia, urged the Whites forward for a third with Gera almost squeezing the ball through the hosts' defence to find Eddie Johnson.

Fulham's fifth substitute David Elm received a warm welcome from his fellow countrymen, before Riise teased a free-kick in to the box from the left, with Baird glazing his resulting header narrowly over the crossbar.

Entering the final 10 minutes, Fulham were certainly on top, and could well have re-taken the lead when Johnson met Riise's fantastic threaded pass and forced a superb diving save from Johnsson.

Elm broke from deep and carried the ball in sight of the Halmstads' goal, but the Swedish striker could only find the arms of the hosts' 'keeper.

That was the last of the real chances for either side as referee Martin Olsson drew a close on an entertaining contest. The result wasn't what the Whites had hoped, but nonetheless this was a work out that will no doubt serve them well.

Fulham: Stockdale; Kelly, Baird, Hughes, Konchesky (Smith 62); Duff (Riise 70), Murphy (Dikgacoi 70), Greening, Davies (Elm 78); Gera, Zamora (E.Johnson 70).

Source FulhamFC
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