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Hangeland pledges Fulham will lift themselves

last updated Thursday 15th December 2011, 2:54 PM

Fulham defender Brede Hangeland
Fulham defender
Brede Hangeland
Brede Hangeland
Fulham defender Brede Hangeland today pledged Fulham will lift themselves from their shock Europa League exit in time for Saturday's relegation clash with Bolton.

Hangeland issued his rallying call after Fulham, inexcusably sitting back on a slender lead, conceded an equaliser just six seconds from the end of added time against Danish side Odense BK at a stunned Craven Cottage.

The 2-2 draw meant Fulham dropped from second to third in the Group K table, with Wisla Krakow, of Poland, leapfrogging into the second qualifying spot with a 2-1 win against Holland's FC Twente, who had already secured their place in tomorrow's draw for the knockout round of 32.

It was the last thing Fulham needed ahead of their home clash with the Premier League's bottom side, particularly as they themselves are only three points clear of the drop zone. But Hangeland, who wore the captain's armband against Odense following Danny Murphy's failure to recover from an ankle injury, believes his team will fight back.

"Sometimes when you have a big disappointment it's good to have a game coming up a few days later to put things right," he said. "I think we'd be up for that game regardless of what happened against Odense but it will be nice to get back into action as soon as possible after this massive disappointment."

A massive disappointment? That hardly begins to sum up a game which Fulham appeared to have taken control of as they led 2-0 at half-time.

Manager Martin Jol drafted in some younger players as he sought to cope with injuries and the needs of squad rotation in a glut of eight games during December. Neil Etheridge, a London-born goalkeeper who plays for the Philippines for whom he qualifies through his mother, got a late call to make his debut after Mark Schwarzer succumbed to a spinal complaint that will keep him out until after Christmas.

And the 21-year-old initially impressed with his confidence, sharp reactions and bravery. Marcel Gecov, a 23-year-old former Czech Under-21 midfielder making only his third start, also caught the eye with vision and playmaking that Murphy would have been proud of.

But it was teenager Kerim Frei, born in Austria but raised in Switzerland, who made the most telling impact in the 27th minute when he galloped down the left wing and crossed low to Bobby Zamora. The England striker laid the ball back to Clint Dempsey and his curling first-time shot flew between keeper and post.

Four minutes later Frei scored his first for the club, finishing off a chance created by Mousa Dembele, who dispossessed a dithering Bernard Mendy before embarking on one of his trademark jinking runs.

That brace ought to have been enough to see Fulham through to the win they needed but in the second half the Whites may as well have run up a white flag.

A poor wall and naive positioning by Etheridge allowed Hans Henrik Andreasen to curl a free-kick just inside the post in the 64th minute.

Then substitute Djiby Fall's fine header two minutes and 54 seconds into the three minutes of added time capped a remarkable comeback by an Odense side who on last night's showing would struggle in League One.

Hangeland added: "To go out like that with the last kick of the ball is very hard to take. We didn't play a good game but we had by far the better chances and I can't believe we drew."

Fulham's European adventure had embraced 14 games stretching back to their first qualifier which took place in the second week of the Wimbledon tennis championships. Hangeland said: "I've been thinking about the fact that we started training on June 23 and it feels like that was all for nothing."

Not even the potential revealed by Fulham's young talent could console Hangeland, who added: "It's over and done with and now we need to focus on the Premier League and FA Cup."

Source David Smith at Evening standard
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