Fulham and Atletico Madrid both came from behind to advance to the Europa League soccer final.
Fulham beat Hamburg 2-1 last night after the teams played a scoreless draw last week to open the two-game semifinal. Atletico lost 2-1 at Liverpool after extra time, though advanced on away goals after winning the first match 1-0.
Simon Davies and Zoltan Gera scored six minutes apart in the second half as Fulham erased a 1-0 deficit to move into the May 12 final in Hamburg. It will be the first appearance for both teams in the final of Europe’s second-tier club competition.
“It’s unbelievable to come back from that,” Davies told ITV4. “The manager said keep playing your football and you’ll get your reward and we did that.”
Diego Forlan’s goal in extra time sent Atletico to the championship game. It came seven minutes after Yossi Benayoun scored to put Liverpool 2-1 up over two matches.
“It was a really difficult game,” Forlan told Channel Five. “We knew we needed to score one goal and that was it.”
Fulham received a boost when leading scorer Bobby Zamora started after an Achilles injury and he had a chance in the third minute which goalkeeper Frank Rost came out to block.
Hamburg’s Mladen Petric then beat goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a curling free kick from 30 yards into the top left corner in the 22nd minute. It was his 10th goal in the Europa League this season and left Fulham needing to score twice to advance.
After limping for most of the game, Zamora was replaced by Clint Dempsey after 58 minutes. Fulham tied the game 11 minutes later when Davies controlled Danny Murphy’s chip at the edge of the area, turned defender Guy Demel and put a shot past Rost.
Gera then completed the comeback in the 76th minute when he gathered in a loose ball off a corner kick, turned and fired a shot into the net.
“It was the most important goal I have ever scored so I’m very, very happy,” Gera told ITV.
Ruud van Nistelrooy had one last chance in injury time to send Hamburg to the final in its home stadium, though sent his shot from an angle wide of the goal.
Liverpool, seeking a record fourth UEFA Cup title, looked set to join its Premier League rival in the final when Lucas lobbed a pass into the area for Benayoun, who drilled a left- footed shot past goalkeeper David de Gea.
Former Manchester United striker Forlan answered shortly after when he was left alone in front of the goal to put Jose Antonio Reyes’s cross past Jose Reina.
Liverpool dominated the first half and had Daniel Agger’s goal in the 32nd minute disallowed for offside. The Reds then took the lead, and made it 1-1 over two games, on Alberto Aquilani’s goal in the final minute of the first half.
A scoreless second half sent the match to an extra 30 minutes, where Forlan’s goal ensured Liverpool will end the season without a trophy for the fourth straight season.
“We were on top of them for a long time,” Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said in comments on his club’s website. “We were there, but to concede a goal was disappointing. Atletico were up for it and had a lot of desire.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at email@example.com.