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Hajduk Split 0 Fulham 1 - Match Report

last updated Thursday 19th September 2002, 11:22 PM
Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque was the hero as he fired The Cottagers to a 1-0 victory against Croatia's Hajduk Split in the Londoner's first ever major European match.

The French midfielder came up with the crucial away goal in this UEFA Cup first round, first leg tie five minutes after the interval, rifling into the bottom corner.

Goran Ivanisevic - Split's most famous fan - joined 33,000 home supporters and 250 Fulham followers in the magnificent Poljud Stadium just yards from the Adriatic Sea.

And last year's Wimbledon tennis champion was witness to a pulsating atmosphere throughout this entertaining match.

Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque
Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque scored Fulham's first goal in senior European competition giving The Cottagers a 1-0 win away in Split.
In a tight first-half, Edwin van der Sar saved Intertoto Cup winners Fulham, with a superb reaction block from Dario Srna's header.

The Dutch goalkeeper scrambled to his feet to narrow the angle as the winger's rebound effort hit the outside of the post.

Malbranque struck in the 50th minute and Steve Marlet drew a great save from Croatia's first-choice keeper Stipe Pletikosa late on.

Jean Tigana's men, flying high in the Barclaycard Premiership, were without striker Louis Saha (hamstring) and winger Luis Boa Morte (knee).

Split, joint second in the Croatian Championship after seven games, could have taken the lead inside two minutes.

Vlatko Dolonga rose above the Fulham defence to reach Dario Srna's corner but fluffed his header.

And van der Sar showed superb bravery to dispell another Split raid in the 11th minute, punching away a corner at the near post as Mato Neretljak floored him.

Fulham's first real attack came when Marlet spearheaded a quick break and slipped the ball into Sylvain Legwinski's feet on the edge of the box.

However, the French midfielder, who yesterday claimed the UEFA Cup is not of interest until the quarter-finals, failed to bring the ball under control and the attack faltered.

Blatant theatrics by Split's Mario Carevic - after making minimal contact with Andy Melville inside the Fulham penalty area - deservedly earned him the game's first booking.

Van der Sar saved Fulham with a fantastic point-blank stop in the 29th minute.

Dolonga swung over a cross from the left and Srna easily outjumped Rufus Brevett to power a header goalwards.

Van der Sar made a fine parry and scrambled to his feet to narrow the angle as the winger's follow-up effort hit the outside of the post.

Dolonga sent a header wide and Carevic fired wide as the Croats piled on the pressure.

Three minutes after the break, Carevic turned Brevett and raced goalwards, only to shoot high and wide from 22 yards.

But there was nothing wasteful about the finish at the other end two minutes later as Malbranque's clinical strike gave Fulham a 1-0 lead.

Inamoto played the ball into Marlet, 30 yards from goal, who slipped it to Malbranque, coming in from the left wing. He beat Pletikosa with a 14-yard drive, nestling into the bottom right corner of the net.

Split's fanatical fans showed their anger at their team going behind by letting off flares - and their mood almost worsened in the 67th minute when Hrvoje Vukovic's hashed clearance fell at Marlet's feet.

The French international raced goalwards and brought a fine parry from Pletikosa with a 14-yard drive.

Fulham's Lee Clark replaced Inamoto in the 77th minute to make his first appearance since March. The midfielder had been troubled by a stubborn Achilles problem.

Split striker Zvonimir Deranja missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise in the 83rd minute, connecting with Dolonga's cross from the left but clipping the ball past the far post.

But the Cottagers held on to seal a memorable victory and boost their hopes of an extended run in this season's UEFA Cup competition.

Hajduk Split:
Pletikosa, Djolonga, Vejic, Neretljak, Vukovic (Piric 79), Andric, Srna (Brgles 78), Racunica (Bule 70), Miladin, Carevic, Deranja.

Subs Not Used: Runje, Butorovic, Radeljic, Gudelj.

Booked: Miladin.

Van der Sar, Brevett (Wome 62), Goma, Ouaddou, Melville, Inamoto (Clark 79), Davis, Malbranque, Legwinski, Hayles, Marlet (Sava 84).

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Collins, Knight, Stolcers.

Goals: Malbranque 50.

Att: 25,000 Ref: Fernando Mendez (Spain).
Source PA Sport by Alistair Grant
Since 1998
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