Dempsey, Fulham defeated in Europa League final

 

Clint Dempsey and Fulham finished as Europa League runners up after dropping a 2-1 decision to Atletico Madrid in extra time in Wednesday night's final at Nordbank Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

Atletico ace Diego Forlan bagged his second of the night with four minutes remaining in overtime to break West London hearts.

The match was a back-and-forth affair with every bit of the atmosphere you'd expect from the occasion.

During the early moments, Fulham looked the more lively side moving the ball, while Atletico's passing looked a bit ragged.

Nevertheless, Los Rojiblancos would fire the opening salvo on 12 minutes after a Whites turnover near midfield sent Sergio Aguero running. The #10 shirt slipped strike partner Diego Forlan into the area on the left and his low diagonal shot grazed the outside of the far post.

Three minutes later, a Paul Koncjesky foul above the right corner of the area gave Jose Antonio Reyes the chance to tee up a free kick. The former Arsenal man's attempt was labeled for the near upper 90, but Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was equal to the task.

The Premiership crew starting working Atletico keeper David de Gea only seconds later. Bobby Zamora chested down for Zoltan Gera to fire away, but his half-volley sailed over.

Twenty minutes in, Simon Davies tested De Gea with another half-volley after the Atletico defense misplayed a lob for Zamora. Fulham were having their way in the air, but the Spaniards then took control by playing on the ground.

Moments later, Aguero expertly split two in the corner to work his way into the box. A shoulder drop granted space to cross, but Fulham backline marshal Brede Hangeland was on hand to keep the feed from Forlan.

The Atletico pressure continued, and just past the half hour they had a lead. Some good ball movement eventually offered Aguero an open shot from 16 meters. His partial whiff ended up a perfect slip pass to Forlan, who made no mistake from close range.

Fulham were hardly discouraged, and six minutes later, they had the score level. Zamora wiggled into the area past Luis Perea, but was unable to pull the trigger. A few area passes later, Damien Duff's back post cross took an Atletico deflection to fall perfectly for Davies to lash home.

As the half ticked down, Atletico earned no less than five corner kicks in a three-minute span. All were wasted but the fourth, which was taken short. The ball was fed to Reys above the box and he should have done better than to sky over from 22.

Fulham opened the second phase as the more purposeful outfit, camping out in the Atletico end for nearly three minutes to no avail.

In the 52nd minute, Duff's lob feed over the top released Gera, but his first touch was heavy and De Gea raced out to claim at the edge of his area.

Shortly thereafter, Clint Dempsey replaced Zamora. The American's second touch allowed him to flick a cross on goal, but De Gea was wise to it.

More Fulham pressure ensued and Davies saw a low drive from 20 turned away by De Gea on the hour. The teams began trading rushes as each supporters section sang full voice.

Moments after Duff fired high from 20, Dempsey won Fulham's first corner kick of the night, which De Gea punched away in a crowd.

Lifted by subs Jose Jurado and Eduardo Salvio, Atletico began leaning on the Whites. The pressure was broken over the final few moments of regulation, and Davies pegged the wall with a danger free kick.

Jurado fired over from 20 to begin extras and Nevland followed that act by shooting parallel to the goal line from a sharp angle at the other end.

A low Forlan cross caused some trouble in the 101st minute, but Dickson Etuhu was on hand to boot away after Schwarzer got a palm to the low serve.

As the first extra period wound down, Atletico nearly bagged a winner. Forlan bested Chris Baird to breach the box on the left. His centering feed hit a teammate to fall for Aguero, who slid his effort inches wide of the post.

Dempsey was tripped up in the Atletico end on consecutive rushes near the start of the second overtime session, but neither restart bothered the Spanish side.

Finally, on 116 minutes, Aguero carved out the Atletico winner. Crossing low from the left, he picked out Forlan, who beat Hangeland for the second time to nudge the ball behind Schwarzer.

Fulham played long ball in an attempt to even matters, but could not trouble De Gea.


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