Hodgson believes Fulham can beat odds again

LONDON, April 2, 2010 (AFP) - Fulham manager Roy Hodgson insists his side can continue their Europa League fairytale despite conceding a crucial late goal in their 2-1 win over Wolfsburg in the quarter-final first leg.

Hodgson's side were firmly in control of the tie after two goals in four minutes midway through the second half from Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff rocked the German champions at Craven Cottage.

But Fulham were unable to keep the visitors at bay and Alexander Madlung's 89th minute header gave Wolfsburg a priceless away goal.

Fulham's Irish midfielder Damien Duff clebrates after scoring a second goal during their UEFA Europa League, quarter-final, 1st leg football match against Wolfsburg at Craven Cottage, London, England, on April 1, 2010. AFP PHOTO

Hodgson concedes the late blow makes Lorenz-Gunther Kostner's team slight favourites to reach semi-finals in Germany next Thursday.

Yet the Cottagers boss has seen his team perform miracles in Europe so often this season that he has no doubts they can add another famous scalp to their growing list of continental conquests.

The unfashionable Premier League club have already knocked out Italian giants Juventus and holders Shakhtar Donetsk and Hodgson said: "I don't know if we would be favourites even at 2-0 but at 2-1 you definitely relinquish any chance of being called favourites because if they score and shut up shop they go through.

"But they have to score and get a victory so if we get a goal we will have a good chance of going through ourselves.

"I thought we played very well and showed we could trouble them. Of course being this close to a famous victory and then conceding a late goal could put a slight dampener on the performance but it shouldn't.

"If you had said before the match that we would play well and win I would have accepted any score.

"I'm not going to allow a late goal to take the gloss off a win and a good performance against the German champions, especially at this stage of such a long season."

Key to Fulham's hopes of completing the job in Germany will be Zamora, who underlined his growing claims to be including in England's World Cup squad with a powerful display capped by his 18th goal of the season.

The former Tottenham forward brilliantly controlled Zoltan Gera's pass before curling home the opening goal from outside the penalty area in the 59th minute, then showed tremendous strength and skill to set up Duff's goal four minutes later.

Zamora did all that while nursing the after-effects of a heavy cold and Hodgson insisted there was no doubt his striker has proved he could do a job at international level.

"He is doing it against international class opponents. Wolfsburg are a top-class team and haven't lost many matches after a dodgy start to the season," Hodgson said.

"For Bobby to give good performances against teams like of the calibre of Roma, Wolfsburg, Basle and Juventus means there is not any reason why people should say he can only do it in the Premier League."

Hodgson also brushed off West Ham's complaint about his decision to rest several key players including Zamora, Danny Murphy and Aaron Hughes in Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Hull.

West Ham feel their relegation rivals were granted an unfair advantage by Hodgson's selection but he said: "West Ham shouldn't be picking our team. If the complaint comes in we will answer it. My conscience is perfecty clear on the matter. I don't think we have a case to answer.

"I brought in Chris Smalling, a player who is going to Manchester United for 10 million pounds, a South African international Kagisho Dikhacoi for Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey, an American international as well. I don't understand how that can be seen to be weakening the team."

Wolfsburg coach Kostner said: "At 2-0 you think what have you done wrong but the team really pulled themselves together.

"We scored one goal too little but we still have a good chance at home. With the fans behind us it is still a very open game.

"But I wouldn't say we are favourites. It is only half-time."

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