RNK Split 0 Fulham 0: Cottagers survive tough test in Croatia

29 July 2011 08:02
Fulham boss Martin Jol admitted he was 'satisfied but not happy' with the stalemate in Split.

A strong Fulham side certainly made hard work of this third-round Europa League qualifier in Croatia, struggling to create any clear-cut chances and being uncharacteristically sloppy at the back in the first half.

High jump: Ivica Krizanac leaps over the challenge from Fulham's Dickson Etuhu

The pitch at the Stadion Hrvatski Vitezovi did not help the English side and neither did the humid eveningor the mosquitos, but this was an instantly forgettable performance from Jol's side.

MATCH FACTSRNK SPLIT (3-4-3): Vukovic 7; Milovic 7, Krizanac 8, Vidic 7; Marcic 7, Simic 6 (Rebic 57, 6), Vitaic 7, Budisa 7; Baraban 5 (Rasic 85), Erceg 5, Golubovic 5 (Cop 69, 7).FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer 6; Baird 5, Hughes 6, Hangeland 6, JA Riise 6; Duff 5, Murphy 5, Etuhu 5 (Sidwell 76), Briggs 5; Johnson 5, Zamora 5 (Kasami 81).Booked: Etuhu, Sidwell.

Man of the match: Ivica Krizanac.Ref: Sergej Karasev (Russia) 6.

The manager insisted his players had not shown a lack of effort, but thetoils of Fulham's unusual pre-season programme - with only a game a week and excursions to the Faroe Islands and Belfast - certainly told.

In contrast, RNK Split boss Ivan Katalinic received a round of applause when he spoke to the media afterwards; such were the Croatians' expectations of the Barclays Premier League side before what he called a 'surprise' result.

He added: 'I think my team can score at Craven Cottage because they now have belief.'

But Katalinic stole a march on Fulham by employing a fluid and unusual 3-4-3 formation. It allowed midfielder wide men Filip Marcic and Igor Budisa to act as wing-backs, slotting back into a five-man defence and stifling any sparks of Fulham creativity.

Strikers Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson struggled to retain possession and saw their first-half chances well saved, before Matthew Briggs had an effort blocked and Zamora attempted a 25-yard drive in the second 45 minutes.

On the run: Andy Johnson is held up by Split defender Vidic Velimir (R)

But Jol said: 'I am satisfied with the result. With three at the back and two wing-backs it made it difficult to pressurise them. Drawing 0-0 away from home against a good side - I'm not happy, but satisfied.

'There wasn't a lack of effort from my players. They (RNK) changed their formation, we didn't do enough with the ball in their half and we have to do better.

'I expect we will have more initiative (in the second leg next Thursday) and we have to play better in their half to score goals.

'Normally we put more pressure on the centre-backs but we had to drop off, which I don't like to do.

'But they had only three or four good chances, so that is the only thing we have to work on.'

At the back, Jol's side did not heed the early warning provided by Ante Erceg. The striker was wrongly judged onside and allowed to skew a shot wide with only Mark Schwarzer to beat after six minutes.

Yet, until the introduction of talented No.90 Duje Cop in the second half ignited a poor match, Ivan Baraban's 25-yard volley after 38 minutes provided the hosts' best chance.

Up and away: Fulham had to battle hard

Cop showed his talent with a neat turn and left-foot shot with practically his first touch of the game and perhaps should have snatched this poor first leg with six minutes remaining. The striker burst into the box but shot straight at Schwarzer.

Midfielder Pajtim Kasami, 19, who was lauded as a 'great talent' by Jol after signing a four-year contract earlier this week, also made his Fulham debut, replacing Zamora after 81 minutes.

There was more frustration for Jol when unused substitute Bjorn Helge Riise damaged his hamstring during a touchline warm down after the final whistle.

 Murphy's money on dad's army as Fulham look to extend European adventureJol hails the arrival of Kasami as Fulham prepare for battle in SplitCLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE FANTASY FOOTBALL GAME

Source: Daily_Mail

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Last updated : 08:44