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Nic Ladds 23rd Feb 2010 - 16:48

Shakhtar one step too far for Fulham

Fulham face a tough trip to Ukraine in the second-leg of their Europa League round of 32 match against Shakhtar Donetsk. They take a slender 2-1 aggregate lead in to the match but they will not be taking that for granted as Shakhtar are their league's top scorers and pose a real threat to Fulham's progression.

Shakhtar Donetsk (8/15) are second in the Ukrainian Premier League, just two points behind unbeaten Dynamo Kyiv. They have lost just one match all season and although they are behind in this match, they have the all important away goal so will only need a 1-0 victory (9/2) to progress to the next round.

Fulham (5/1) are having solid league campaign under Roy Hodgson. They are ninth in the table and could quite easily qualify for this competition again next season. They are however quite lucky to take a lead in to this match, if not for a moment of inspiration from Zamora, they could quite easily have lost.

In that first tie, Zoltan Gera put the Cottagers ahead with a decent low strike - he is 7/2 to score one at any time in this match. Then Luiz Adriano equalised for Shakhtar, he is 4/1 to get the first goal in the return fixture. Then Bobby Zamora hit a stunning 25 yard swerving shot in off the crossbar to seal the win, he is 8/1 to get a goal here, first or last.

However the result did not do the Ukrainian's justice as they dominated for large spells of the match. They gave Fulham a lesson in how to pass and move and showed glimpses of the quality that helped them win this competition last year - although it was then called the UEFA Cup.

Fulham could take some confidence from the way the Ukrainian league is organised. They take a winter break from early December to early March, the lack of real match fitness evident towards the end of the first tie.

If Fulham can show the dogged determination they have in recent performances, they could scrape a result. If you agree then I would look at Fulham on the double chance with the draw at 9/2 or them just to qualify for the next round by any method at 5/4.

I think Shakhtar's quality and experience at this level will prove too much for Fulham though, in post-match interviews from the first match all Shakhtar's players highlighted their disappointment with the result considering they controlled the match and their eagerness to put it right in front of their impressive home crowd.

Shakhtar have played host to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in Europe before and beat them both, without even conceding a goal (for them to win to nil here is 10/11). They are also unbeaten in ten European home matches, several of which are from the Champions League; this shows just how impressive they are at home.

Although Fulham take in an advantage, they could be in for a lesson in European football in this tie. Fulham will need to score and considering the match at Craven Cottage was the first time Shakhtar have conceded more than one goal in their last 18 European matches, I can't see it happening again and will be backing the Hirnyky (Miners) for qualification.



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