Kamara celebrates his crucial second-half equaliser with John Pantsil in Bulgaria
By Sam Lyon
Diomansy Kamara's second-half strike ensured a much-changed Fulham marked their Europa League group stages bow with a precious point at CSKA Sofia.
The Senegalese striker latched on to a ball over the top to round the keeper and slot home as Fulham held off an effervescent Sofia side in Bulgaria.
The hosts had taken the lead when Michel lashed home from 20 yards.
And they could have won it had Fulham keeper David Stockdale not tipped Yordan Todorov's drive over the bar.
A point was always going to be a valuable one for Fulham as they made their first appearance in the group stages of a European competition in the club's history, but Sofia's hussle-and-bustle approach almost ensured the Londoners were forced to make the long trip home with nothing.
As it was, Kamara rounded off a fine individual display with a very well taken goal to reward Fulham's determination and just about justify boss Roy Hodgson's decision to rest nine first-team players.
This time last season, Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill made eight changes for his side's Uefa Cup clash against CSKA Moscow and they subsequently lost 2-0 and were dumped out of the competition.
But that did not deter Hodgson, with only keeper Stockdale and defender John Pantsil surviving from Sunday's Premier League win over Everton.
It did, however, lead to a disjointed opening from the Londoners, and CSKA Sofia were by far the better starters at the Vasil Levski National, with Ivan Stoyanov cutting in from the right and whipping a left-footed shot wide of the far post inside the first three minutes.
The hosts controlled the early stages, with Stoyanov and Spas Delev both impressing and Fulham strikers Erik Nevland and Kamara increasingly isolated up front.
Chances were very much at a premium, though, and despite the odd occasionally spicy tussle in midfield, the Cottagers slowly took the sting out of the game and settled into their rhythm.
And they almost made the most of their best period of the half just before the break with the best chance of the half, Simon Davies latching on to Jonathan Greening's deflected cross and forcing home keeper Ivan Karadzhov into a low save from 12 yards out.
CSKA kicked off the second half with renewed adventure and ambition, and launched passionate appeals for a penalty when Kosta Yanev's cross bounced up onto Stephen Kelly's arm, only for the referee - aided by the new goal-line assistant in place for the first time in European competition - to correctly wave away the appeals.
The hosts did not have to wait long to break the deadlock, though, and substitute Michel - nicknamed Michel Platini - was the goalscorer, collecting Marquinhos's knock-down, taking a touch, and sweeping home on the half volley from 20 yards out.
It could have been a killer blow for Fulham, but they responded brilliantly and were back on level terms within three minutes.
Nevland was the creator, the striker sweeping the ball over the top on the counter attack for Kamara to run onto and, with the keeper stranded 30 yards from the goal, the 28-year-old took a touch and fired into an empty net with aplomb.
There was still time for Stockdale to mark his European debut with a smart stop, pushing Todorov's firmly-hit shot over the bar after more good work from Marquinhos.
But that was the last of the real goalmouth action as Fulham ensured they kicked off their Group E campaign with a point from what was a tricky opening fixture in Bulgaria.
And with group favourites Roma losing their equivalent tie against FC Basel, the Cottagers will return to London more than happy to have got off the mark.
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