Humbling of Juve highlights Hodgson calibre

LONDON - In a 30-year coaching career that has taken him to Inter Milan and the Swiss national side, Roy Hodgson thought he had pretty much seen it all until Fulham's extraordinary comeback against Juventus on Thursday.

Seemingly dead and buried after losing the first leg 3-1 in Turin and going 1-0 down in the opening minutes at Craven Cottage, Hodgson's Fulham stunned the two-time European champions with a 4-1 win that propelled the mid-table Premier League club into the Europa League quarter-finals.

"We should just do a Rocky Marciano and retire now because it is not going to get any better than this," Hodgson joked after his players etched their names into folklore with a 5-4 aggregate victory.

"This must come close to the greatest night in the club's history. On a personal note I am not sure I can recall such a recovery, I am on top of the world."

It started badly for Fulham when David Trezeguet added to Juve's first-leg advantage, but Fulham responded with an astonishing fightback with two goals from Zoltan Gera and one each from Bobby Zamora and substitute Clint Dempsey.

Dempsey's 82nd-minute, long-range chip sealed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in European club competition.

Fulham's victory ranks with some of the most eye-catching comebacks yet few will be surprised that a manager of Hodgson's calibre could manufacture such a triumph.

"When I reached the final (as manager of Inter Milan in UEFA Cup final v Schalke in 1997) our European campaign was nowhere near as long as this one has been, I think it encompassed 12 games including a two-legged final.

"By the end of the next match we'll have played 16 games now and I think it is a remarkable achievement that the boys have done so well."

Juventus may not be the force they once were but they boast a phenomenal pedigree, twice being champions of Europe, along with winning 27 Serie A titles and nine Italian Cups.

Fulham have never won a major domestic honour and lost in their only FA Cup final in 1975.

After losing their place in the old First Division in 1968 they spent 33 years in the lower divisions before returning to the top flight in 2001.

Managers have come and gone since then, including former England manager Kevin Keegan and French icon Jean Tigana, but no-one has had an impact like Hodgson.

Apparently doomed to relegation when he arrived in December 2007, last season Fulham achieved their highest Premier League finish of seventh -- and, after beating holders Shakhtar Donetsk in the last round of the Europa League, have now humbled true European aristocracy.

A night that started so well for Juve ended in abject disgrace as they finished with nine men following the dismissals of Fabio Cannavaro and Jonathan Zebina, and for the last hour of the match they could not live with Fulham's pace, power and verve.

Wolfsburg, Fulham's opponents in the last eight, will need no reminding of the west London side's qualities nor of the pedigree of their vastly under-rated coach.

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