Fulham 1, Juventus 3– No, No, I Said I LOVE The Away Goal Rule

Posted on March 11, 2010

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Well, I’m a great big hypocrite.  I mean, it’s nothing on the level of saying video games are the most evil and destructive things on the planet and then playing 6 hours of Wii a day, but it’s close.  I mean, I’ve said numerous times that I hate the ‘away goal counts for 2′ rule in knockout tournaments.  And yet, here’s Fulham clinging to a 3-2 deficit on aggregate like a sailor holding the mast in a storm, and things look a little bit different.  I hope they change the rule after it stops helping us.

The way Juventus jumped out to a 2-0 lead was deflating, like showing up for the big dance and then watching your date leave after the first song.  All the anticipation and the “Can we hang with them?  Do you think we have a chance?” questions were rudely swatted to the ground by Juventus’ attack.  All day long I had visions of a cool 0-0 draw playing out, with Juventus growing steadily more frustrated with our vise-like defensive play.  And yet this game was explosive, wide-open, a free for all from the get go.

This game was really like one of those pick-up basketball games you play, where you look at the 5 who’ve held court, throwing alley-oops to each other and drilling trick shots from half-court like the Harlem Globetrotters, and then you look at your team and see a bunch of guys with knee braces, goggles and striped socks.  And then the game starts, and while it’s obvious the other guys are better (and they ultimately win convincingly), your team acquits itself well and stays in the game.

In the same vein, just from the eyeball test alone Juventus looked like they were from another planet, and they proved it with the early goals.  But Fulham pulled one back thanks to a lucky goal off the foot of Dickson Etuhu (who must rapidly improve to stay in the team), and the momentum swung back the Cottagers’ way.  From that point on, Fulham enjoyed several good chances and could have easily brought it back level, before David Trezeguet intervened and buried the half (and the game, ultimately, at 3-1).  After that Juventus took the foot off the pedal and cruised home.  Fulham had several more chances of quality to get another away goal, the nectar and ambrosia that could have nourished their Olympian hopes for advancement, but Juve’ had their share of chances as well, and never were in danger of losing grip.

2-0 at the Cottage to force penalties isn’t the craziest thing in the world to imagine, and so I hold out hope that, armed with the knowledge that Juventus are essentially Shakthar Italiano- incredible but also beatable-  Fulham will launch a counter-offensive at the Cottage the next time around.

Further thoughts:

  • I just don’t think Dickson Etuhu is what we really want in a defensive midfield role.  I know others disagree but I think his ball-winning defensive capabilities are poor, and his passing leaves something to be desired.  Kagisho Dikcagoi can win this job for next year if he wants it, although my money is on Mystery Player X from another team as the holding mid in ’10-’11.
  • Good to see Dempsey come on and play hard.  He didn’t sound tentative on the knee at all, which is the hardest part about coming back from injury- trusting the body to absorb the punishment you’re trying to force on it by playing hard.
  • Without Mark Schwarzer this game is like 6-0.
  • Juventus really seemed to have us on our heels a lot.  We’ll always have a puncher’s chance, but adding a couple more guys like Duff who are very composed on the ball will go a long way towards beating teams like Juve’ more often.
  • More Bobby Zamora excellence today.  Are we actually getting used to this?  Is this something we can count on game in and game out now?  That 5 million from Hull at the beginning of the year seems like small change now.
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