The 2010 UEFA Europa League’s final stage has been set after the second leg of the semi finals went ahead in Europe overnight in the form of two thrilling matches.
Both took place on English soil – and both saw the dreams of two sides to become European Champion’s come crashing down.
The first to secure a spot in the 2010 UEFA Europa League final was Fulham FC who will travel to Germany for their first appearance in a major European final.
The London side saw Hamburg SV travel to Craven Cottage with no advantage from the first leg, and turned around an early away goal deficit to come back in the second half and walk away 2-1 winners.
Fulham FC will face off against Atlético Madrid on the 12th of May in what is set to be a thrilling final.
The German giants went up in the 22nd minute through a fantastic Mladen Petric free kick in the top corner, which Mark Schwarzer had no chance of reaching in goal.
It looked to be set at that point, as the home side had made no real threat to their visitors, although if this year’s tournament has proved anything, it is that the Roy Hodgson side can never be written off.
Having knocked out defending champions FC Shakhtar Donestk and European superstars Juventus, Fulham continued their dream run as they equalised through Simon Davies, who stayed composed in front of goal.
The Welshman received skipper Danny Murphy’s pinpoint pass coolly, and tipped it over Frank Rost to a roar from the vocal home fans.
Although the Cottagers needed one more with Hamburg still having the away goal advantage.
The whites certainly did not want their European dreams to end at the Cottage last night, and with the help of Zoltan Gera, continue their fairytale story in the tournament.
The Hungarian midfielder pounced in the 76th minute, hitting the back of the net and setting the final within reaching distance.
Ruud van Nistelrooy almost stopped the home side from celebrating, blasting a shot on goal wide in stoppage time after some nifty footwork.
The final score was 2-1 to Fulham on aggregate, with the Germans returning home with their tale between their legs and will have to watch from the sidelines when Fulham play in the final at the Hamburg Arena.
In the second match over in Europe, Liverpool FC took to Anfield to turn around a single goal deficit from their first leg tie against Atlético Madrid.
While the Spanish side travelled to the north of England with the advantage, it is no easy task when up against the Kop on home soil, and the match certainly reflected that.
While Fulham were done and dusted in London, they turned to their Premier League counterparts to determine who they would face in the final, in a match which went into extra time.
The home side got the crucial equaliser through Alberto Aquilani just before the break – with the 90th minute seeing no change in the score line, resulting in a bout of extra time.
Atlético started slow, and made little positive impact on the game, not able to maintain their opponents and heavily relying on David de Gea in goal to keep them in the match.
The second half saw the visitors find more form with most of the action back in Liverpool’s half – although the home side were still dangerous as yet again De Gea saved the Spaniards as he pushed Glen Johnsons shot on target wide.
In extra time, Liverpool came out determined to make it an all-English final, and went ahead in the fourth minute through Yossi Benayoun.
However, just as he did in the opening leg, Diego Forlán stabbed a dagger into the hearts of the home crowd as he struck the back of the net just eight minutes later, and saw the Kop lose all confidence.
Rafa Benitez’s men tried to break through the Spanish defence and give the crowd what they wanted, but to no avail and ended the game 2-2 on aggregate, with the visitors advancing on the away goal rule.
With one more match to go to decipher who will be crowned with the title of 2010 UEFA Europa League Champions, Fulham FC – the surprising last hope for England in Europe this season, will face off against Atlético Madrid on the 12th of May in what is set to be a thrilling final.