Hodgson happy with stalemate

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson praised his players after the road-weary Cottagers secured a 0-0 draw at Hamburg in their Europa League semi-final first leg.

The Londoners had - much to Hodgson's chagrin - travelled to Germany by coach following the air chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

And despite having to weather a storm of pressure from the hosts in the second half, Fulham can return to England - by plane after the re-opening of the airways - knowing that a home win at Craven Cottage next week will ensure a return to Hamburg for the final next month.

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"I think we have got to be very happy with the result when it has been such an effort to get here. It's not normal to travel virtually two days but we were determined not to use it as an excuse. I do think now we can take some credit," Hodgson told ESPN.

"You can't put these things out of your mind. You can't prepare well when you have to spend two days on a bus, but that didn't show in the game.''

The former Blackburn and Inter Milan boss believes Fulham are now slight favourites to reach the final - having won seven and drawn one of their eight Europa League ties on home soil this season - but insists they must take nothing for granted.

"It will be very different at Craven Cottage with the atmosphere and the pitch being so different to here,'' he said.

"This is a magnificent stadium, a magnificent arena with a beautiful playing surface, a big playing surface, and it will be very different on our much tighter pitch.

"We are at half-time, and we have to play another 90 minute half. Not many people leave stadiums at half-time, or go for a cup of tea thinking the game has been won.

"There is a lot of football to be played and Hamburg are a very good team. If they score a goal next week the advantage passes to them. The tie is open but I am delighted about that because it is very easy to put yourself out of contention.''

Fulham's top scorer Bobby Zamora had to be withdrawn shortly after half time due to the Achilles problem that has been dogging the front-man for weeks.

And Hodgson admitted it is doubtful the goal-getter - deserving of an England call-up according to pundits and supporters across the country - will take part in Sunday's Premier League meeting with Everton at Goodison Park.

"He does have an Achilles problem and we're trying to manage it as well as possible. We were a bit concerned about it and he was complaining about it before the game.

"It was so close to the end of the game I've not had a chance to talk to the medical staff yet, but it will be a problem for the weekend, that's for certain, because of the travelling.

"I've not ruled him out yet but if you ask me now to have a bet I would bet on him not playing.''

Hodgson's opposite number, Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia, revealed afterwards that Fulham's approach had not surprised him following their recent 1-0 win in Wolfsburg.

However, he remained optimistic that his side can progress to the final, which is being held in Hamburg's Nordbank Arena.

"As expected this was a very difficult game and as expected they played very defensively. I was a little bit surprised they stayed back so much," he said.

"Our problem was that we didn't quite get enough crosses in. We knew there wouldn't be a way through the middle, we saw that from the Wolfsburg game.

"All in all the game's in the balance and we can still achieve what we set out to do."

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