Fulham 2-2 Odense BK: Dempsey, Frei score
A last-second goal from Baye Fall saw Fulham throw away a two-goal lead to crash out of the Europa League with a 2-2 draw to OB at Craven Cottage.
Having led through first-half goals from Clint Dempsey and Kerim Frei, Fulham somehow contrived to draw a game they dominated, as a contentiously-taken free-kick by Hans Andreasen and Fall’s last-gasp header saw Wisla Krakow qualify after a 2-1 win over group winners FC Twente.
The result means the Poles, who started the night behind Fulham, take second in Group E.
Brede Hangeland was denied a trademark header by both the palm of Wessels and Bashkim Kadrii on the line, with Dembele putting the rebound over from six yards, while Espen Ruud managed to get back to hoof Dempsey’s finish away after the USA international clipped a cool finish over Wessels.
Finally the opener came on 27 minutes, and it was some goal too.
Frei, only 18 but the best player on the park, drilled a low ball in for the otherwise quiet Bobby Zamora, who slipped a deft flick to Dempsey, who in turn drilled a fierce shot past Wessels from the edge of the area.
It was glorious one-touch football and soon afterwards Fulham got a similarly-stylish second.
The co-creator for the first goal, this time Frei was on hand to break his Fulham duck with a cool low finish through the legs of Wessels after his clever diagonal run met the excellent through-ball of Dembele.
Stephen Kelly stung the palms of Wessels with a long-range effort but by this point Fulham were home and dry - Wisla, who had opened the scoring against group winners FC Twente - had conceded an equaliser to leave a four-point gap between second and third.
But it was not all positive for the hosts, with Zamora motioning as if he wished to be substituted at one point, having been the intended recipient of a failed pass. Clearly not injured, the talk will continue of an alleged fall-out with Martin Jol, although there was a chance his rolling-hands motion was intended to signify a proposed tactical switch.
The England striker came out for the second half though, indicating that the problem was either tactical or something easily soothed by Jol.
However, Fulham were a touch sluggish in the second half, failing to create anything as OB sensed an unlikely upset.
The Danes fired a warning shot when full-back Ruud forced a smart low stop from the previously untested Neil Etheridge, given his Fulham debut with Mark Schwarzer injured and David Stockdale unregistered for the group stages after his abortive loan at Ipswich Town.
And the visitors pulled one back, and not without controversy. Baird had given away a free-kick on the right side of the box but, with Fulham’s wall and the referee otherwise preoccupied, they sneakily moved the ball a yard or so inside: Andreasen drove the ball in the gap and, with Etheridge unsighted, it nestled inside the near post.
That spurred the visitors on, although without too much avail as they struggled to get past the home defence. On the one occasion they did get through, a combination of Matthew Briggs and Etheridge keeping Rasmus Falk from reaching Peter Utaka’s cross.
Indeed Fulham had the better late chances as Aaron Hughes headed over from a corner and, deep into injury time, substitute Orlando Sa attempted to dribble all the way when a frustrated Damien Duff was free and awaiting an easy finish.
From that piece of naivety by Sa, OB levelled: the counter attack saw Fulham fail to mark Senegal forward Fall, who got between Hughes and Hangelad to meet a glorious cross from the untracked Ruud which he buried with aplomb.
The equaliser was a sickener but Fulham can at least focus on staying in the Premier League, with their form so far this season unconvincing on all fronts.
FULHAM: Etheridge, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Briggs, Frei, Gecov, Baird, Dempsey, Dembele, Zamora - subs - Somogyi, JA Riise, Sa, Kasami, Senderos, Duff, Etuhu
ODENSE: Wessels, Ruud, Andreasen, Utaka, Reginiussen, Falk, Sorensen, Gislason, Mendy, Kadrii, Hoegh - subs - Krog, Johnasson, Schoop, Djemba-Djemba, Larsen, Fall