Little old Fulham did the impossible in the 2009/10 season, reaching the Europa League final in a staggering run to reach the Hamburg final.
Atletico Madrid 2 Fulham 1 (AET)
Having dramatically qualified from the group stages with a 3-2 win at the home of the 2016 Europa League final against Basel, Roy Hodgson’s men would go on an incredible run to reach the final.
They beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 in the round of 32, before overturning a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Juventus, thrashing the Italian side 4-1 at Craven Cottage to get into the quarter-finals.
Bobby Zamora, Clint Dempsey and a Zoltan Gera brace gave West London a night to remember, and the drama wasn’t to end there.
A 3-1 aggregate win over Wolfsburg set up a semi-final against another German side in Hamburger SV, who were pushing to get to a final in their own stadium, but fell to the Cottagers 2-1.
The Fulham website described the magnitude of the occasion as Fulham headed for the final.
“Fulham returned to the HSH Nordbank Area for their first major final since the 1975 FA Cup Final, where, from the moment they arrived in their numbers the Fulham faithful were at their vociferous best.
“This was a night that those loyal followers had dreamed long and hard, and another that would unfold against the backdrop of uproarious drama.”
The Spaniards started the game the better, with Atleti hitting the post through Diego Forlan’s low drive across goal and Jose Antonio Reyes’ testing free kick that Mark Schwarzer handled well.
Forlan beat the Fulham defence to Sergio Aguero’s scuffed shot, converting from closing range to put the Rojiblancos 1-0 up just after the half hour mark.
That battling spirit that had got Fulham to the final did not desert them, as they levelled before the break in Hamburg.
Zamora evaded two challenges to find Damien Duff, whose pass to the right gave Gera time to deliver. The Hungarian clipped a teasing delivery to the back post, where Simon Davies was waiting crash in with a thumping finish.
GOAL! Fulham 1 (Davies 37) Atletico 1. Gera chips ball in from right and Zamora flicks on to Davies whose angled volley makes it 1-1.
— TEAMtalk (@TEAMtalk) May 12, 2010
Davies almost gave the English side an unlikely lead on the hour when he delivered an instant strike from a poor Atletico clearance, but David de Gea was able to make the block.
Having battled for extra time, the Whites were to have their hearts broken again by the ever-present Forlan tapped home from Aguero’s cross to register a 116th minute winner.
The Guardian recall the tremendous run.
“Throughout the tournament, they have continually found the faith to meet each challenge and deny the weariness that must lurk within them after a season that opened last July. The endurance and purpose were as daunting as ever to opponents tonight.”
Atletico Madrid: De Gea, Antonio Lopez, Ujfalusi, Dominguez, Perea, Raul Garcia, Paulo Assuncao, Simao, Forlan, Aguero, Reyes. Substitutes: Blazquez, Juanito, Leandro Cabrera, Valera, Camacho, Jurado, Eduardo Salvio.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Konchesky, Hangeland, Baird, Hughes, Gera, Murphy, Duff, Etuhu, Davies, Zamora.Substitutes: Zuberbuhler, Pantsil, Riise, Dempsey, Greening, Dikgacoi, Nevland.
What they said
Roy Hodgson was proud of the showing of his team.
“The players are very, very disappointed as we put up a very good show,” he said.
“The game was heading towards penalties and, despite obvious fatigue, they were well organised, well disciplined and looking good value for the result. But unfortunately Diego Forlán popped up with another crucial goal.
“It’s a bitter disappointment as I thought we deserved at least to go to penalties. I really am unbelievably proud of the players.”
Quique Sanches Flores was pleased that his Atletico side managed to get the job done.
“I am really proud of my players. They deserve all the credit because they were able to overcome a complicated situation. I can only emphasise my admiration for the work they have put in to turn our campaign around.
“It has been a long, hard season and that makes this success even more special. We are thrilled to have won a very tough final and a very difficult competition.
“It is a huge satisfaction – Atletico are a big, big club and we have made thousands of people happy.”