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Roy Hodgson proud as Fulham reach Europa League final

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Hodgson hails 'outstanding' achievement

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson saluted his team's historic achievement as they progressed to the Europa League final with a 2-1 aggregate win over Hamburg.

"After going a goal down against the run of play I think we made a major piece of history here in a very special atmosphere," Hodgson said.

"I think lots of teams would have lost their discipline and shape, but we stayed strong."

Fulham will play Atletico Madrid in the club's first European final on 12 May.

The match will be the last in a continental campaign that has included victories over defending champions Shaktar Donetsk and Italian giants Juventus for Hodgson's side.

PHIL McNULTY'S BLOG

It started 10 months ago and has taken in 18 matches and nearly 20,000 miles of travel, including a lengthy trip by coach to Hamburg for the semi-final first leg when the volcanic ash cloud crisis grounded flights in Europe.

Mladen Petric's vicious free kick had given Hamburg a half-time lead in the second leg at Craven Cottage, but Simon Davies and Zoltan Gera scored the two goals required to take Fulham though.

"To have reached a Europa League final - and I do not care if you are Fulham or one of the top four - is an outstanding achievement. That will be recognised by everyone," said Hodgson.

The manager has done wonders with the club

Simon Davies

"Football is an emotional game, so in a semi-final the players could be excused for losing their heads or discipline but they did not do it tonight. "It was a great performance because it would have been so easy for us to lose our heads after the great goal they scored.

"I thought we were good value for our victory and the character of this team has been proved time and time again.

"It's been an amazingly long season yet watching the players run around in the second half it didn't look as though we'd played 59 games this season.

"We're in the final because we've played very, very well throughout and knocked out some very difficult teams, not least Hamburg. It's been a wonderful journey that I'm really proud of."

'Proud' Gera looking forward to final

Keeper Mark Schwarzer, a key figure in Fulham's run to the final, told BBC Radio 5 Live that the team believe they can still go one step further and beat Atletico in the final.

"For us, it's irrelevant who we're playing in the final," he said. "Now we're there we've got every chance of going that step further and winning it.

"We'll go about our job as quietly and professionally as possible. We've been written off all the way through (the competition) and I'm sure we'll be written off in the final, but we'll push on and hopefully create even more history for Fulham."

And the Australian paid tribute to manager Hodgson too, saying: "Roy is brilliant. He's very, very experienced, and he can be an angry little man at times when he needs to be, but he's very astute.

"He's also very good in the transfer market. He's built a team of no real big name players or stars, but players who want to succeed, some who have been written off at some stage or another but who want to come to the club and prove people wrong.

"We work very hard together and the team spirit and ethic at the club is so close. We never give up, we have tremendous self belief and confidence, and that's very apparent in the way we play."

Davies said of Hodgson: "The manager has done wonders with the club.

"I have been here since he first came in, and as a team, we were really in a mess - we were struggling, conceding goal after goal.

"The first thing he worked on was our defensive shape, making us hard to beat and that carried us through to stay up and we have gone on from there."

Davies added: "We have got a modest manager, and he wants us to be a modest team - we are always the underdogs, but that suits us.

"This season, he has rotated when he had to, made big decisions when they were needed.

"The manager has such a composure and he instils that composure into the team."

Striker Bobby Zamora, meanwhile, has scored six Europa League goals this season, but faces a battle to be fit for the final after an ongoing Achilles problem prompted his substitution after 57 minutes.

"The injection we gave him worked quite well but he was beginning to feel the effects in the second half," Hodgson said.

"The problem will exist until he gets more treatment on it. But if I rest him for one or two of the league matches, perhaps he will be fit for the final."

Hamburg coach Ricardo Moniz had no complaints with the result and admitted: "We just didn't do what we needed. We needed to go forward more.

"When we were 1-0 up I told the team to get the ball to the wingers but they couldn't. We lost the game and didn't do well enough and that's that."

The possibility of an all-English final at the Nordbank Arena in Hamburg went unrealised after Atletico's away-goals victory over Liverpool in the other semi-final.

FULHAM'S ROUTE TO THE FINAL

QUALIFYING:
29 July 2009 - Q3 L1: FK Vetra 0-3 Fulham
6 Aug 2009 - Q3 L2:
Fulham 3-0 FK Vetra (agg 6-0)
20 Aug 2009 - FQ L1:
Fulham 3-1 Amkar Prem
27 Aug 2009 - FQ L2:
Amkar Perm 1-0 Fulham (agg 2-3)

GROUP STAGES:
17 Sept 2009 - Grp E: CSKA Sofia 1-1 Fulham
1 Oct 2009 - Grp E:
Fulham 1-0 Basle
22 Oct 2009 - Grp E:
Fulham 1-1 Roma
5 Nov 2009 - Grp E:
Roma 2-1 Fulham
3 Dec 2009 - Grp E:
Fulham 1-0 CSKA Sofia
16 Dec 2009 - Grp E:
FC Basle 2-3 Fulham

KNOCKOUT STAGES:
18 Feb 2010 - L32 L1: Fulham 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
25 Feb 2010 - L32 L2:
Shakhtar D 1-1 Fulham (agg 2-3)
11 Mar 2010 - L16 L1:
Juventus 3-1 Fulham
18 Mar 2010 - L16 L2:
Fulham 4-1 Juventus (agg 5-4)
1 Apr 2010 - QF L1:
Fulham 2-1 Wolfsburg
8 Apr 2010 - QF L2:
Wolfsburg 0-1 Fulham (agg 1-3)
22 Apr 2010 - SF L1:
Hamburg 0-0 Fulham
28 Apr 2010 - SF L1:
Fulham 2-1 Hamburg (agg 2-1)



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see also
Hodgson tipped for manager award
30 Apr 10 |  Fulham
Fulham 2-1 Hamburg (agg 2-1)
28 Apr 10 |  Europe
Liverpool 2-1 Atletico (agg 2-2)
29 Apr 10 |  Europe
Europa League photos
29 Apr 10 |  Football
Europa League as it happened
29 Apr 10 |  Football
Hodgson will stay, says Al Fayed
29 Apr 10 |  Fulham
From the Cottage to the Continent
22 Apr 10 |  Europe
Fulham 4-1 Juventus (agg 5-4)
18 Mar 10 |  Europe
Shakhtar D 1-1 Fulham (agg 2-3)
25 Feb 10 |  Europe


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