Hamburg 0-0 Fulham: two similar sides
Hamburg set out in a 4-4-2 shape with Jonathan Pitroipa and Pitor Trochowski playing as ‘inverted’ wingers, David Jarolim playing as the holding player with Ze Roberto the more creative midfielder. Jose Guerrero dropped off Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Fulham’s shape was almost identical. They too played inverted wingers – Damien Duff and Simon Davies, and had a similar midfield partnership – Dickson Etuhu as the destroyer, Danny Murphy as the passer. Bobby Zamora was the targetman, with Zolan Gera generally very close to him.
The consequence of both sides playing wrong-footed wingers was a very narrow active playing area - both sides set out their 4-4-2 with an emphasis on getting the ball into wide areas, but when it got there, all four wingers were intent on coming inside into the congested centre, rather than having the confidence to beat their full-back on the outside and swing a cross in. To add to this, neither set of full-backs provided much of an attacking threat - Paul Konchesky and Chris Baird because their instruction was to stay at home, Guy Demel and Dennis Aogo because neither are particularly competent on the ball.
Fulham’s wide midfielders played a mainly defensive role, sitting in front of their full-backs and forming two banks of four. It was difficult for them to provide much of an attacking threat as they were generally picking the ball up 70 yards from goal.
Fulham’s main route of attack, therefore, was to knock long balls to Bobby Zamora, who would compete with the centre-backs and lay it back to Zoltan Gera. This approach worked well on 13 minutes, when a long ball was met by a nonchalant Zamora flick, but Gera’s effort was deflected wide. Zamora struggled to recreate this scenario throughout, partly through the good work of the Hambug centre-backs, but also because he was plainly not 100% fit.
With the centre-backs concentrating on Zamora, and with Zoltan Gera playing essentially as a forward, Fulham actually looked equally dangerous when they hit long-ish balls into feet for Gera, but it was him and a half-fit Zamora against four defenders, and the reality is that Fulham didn’t produce a shot on target in the entire game. Clint Dempsey came on for Zamora in the second half and played slightly deeper and helped Fulham press higher up the pitch, but offered relatively little in the way of creativity.
Fulham defended excellently throughout – Konchesky and Baird played extremely narrow – especially Baird, as he looked to prevent Pitroipa getting in at the far post with diagonal runs. Their clean sheet, however, was as much to do with Hamburg’s toothlessness as it was Fulham’s positional excellence. The home side constantly had Fulham pegged back on the edge of their own area, and yet never really forced the issue – maybe fearing the Fulham counter-attack. Most of Hambug’s shots came from long-distance efforts when Fulham’s central midfielders were dragged slightly too deep – they never looked to pass their way through Fulham (although this can be partly attributed to Fulham’s narrowness).
Frankly, the game was not remotely interesting, although it sets up an intriguing second leg.Hamburg 0-0 Fulham: two similar sides