No half measures from Fulham in their third pre-season outing. Ray Lewington includes eight players from last May's Europa League final against Halmstad. An entertaining game sees Fulham held 2-2 as Zoltan Gera bags a brace.
Swedish outfit Halmstad barely staved off relegation last season. With their domestic league well underway they sit mid-table this time around but came into this friendly fixture on the back of a 3-0 reverse last weekend against IFK Gothenburg. On paper they should have been much sharper than the Whites, coach Lewington reckons players don't regain peak match fitness until the start of October after close season.
Fulham were quickly out of the blocks however and had an early lead on 8 minutes, Zoltan Gera headed home following up on Simon Davies' deflected shot. If Schwarzer does plump for a move to Arsenal on his return from Australia, David Stockdale knows he has to use these pre-season games to make a telling impression. He was at fault however on 24 mins when spilling a long-distance strike into the path of Joe Sise, who had the easy task of rolling the ball into an empty net. Two minutes later the 20-year-old Sise met an Anel Raskaj pass and smartly finished low past Stockdale to give Halmstad the lead. Better reactions from Stockdale saw him get in the way of Marcus Olsson’s strike as the Whites came under pressure.
Halmstad were certainly the better side as the second half got underway and were unlucky not to add to their lead when Amir Kujovic rattled the bar with a strike from outside the box.
Damien Duff’s penetrating run down the wing pulled Fulham back into the game in the 58th minute. The Irish international dribbled past Joalim Wrele and set up Gera with time to lash a 20-yard drive beyond the flailing Karl-Johan Johnsson. Ray made changes with South African midfielder Dikgacoi getting some game time, and introducing fresh strikers David Elm and Eddie Johnson for a final push.
And it almost paid off when the pacy American striker brought a top class save from the Halmstad keeper to deny the Whites a win in a game that saw them end on top. Note the missing presence of Brede...let's hope there's nothing sinister in that.
The Whites had around 100 supporters in the ground. If you're in Sweden to follow the team please let us know of your adventures. I have fond memories of covering Euro 92 there (another tournament of turmoil for England...Tomas Brolin signed photo anyone?)
Fulham: Stockdale; Kelly, Baird, Hughes, Konchesky (Smith 62); Duff (Riise 70), Murphy (Dikgacoi 70), Greening, Davies (Elm 78); Gera, Zamora (E Johnson 70).
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