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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fulham into Europa final

LONDON (AP) Fulham will play Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on May 12, giving the Cottagers a chance to win a major trophy for the first time in their 131-year history.

And Clint Dempsey can become the first American to play in a European soccer final.

"We want some silverware so, hopefully, we can get the job done in Hamburg," Dempsey said after Fulham rallied to beat Hamburg 2-1 Thursday night on second-half goals by Simon Davies and Zoltan Gera.

Fulham and Hamburg tied 0-0 in the first leg in Germany last week, and Hamburg went ahead on Mladen Petric's dipping free kick in the 22nd minute. Fulham got goals from Davies in the 69th and Gera in the 76th to win on 2-1 aggregate.

Dempsey entered as a 57th-minute substitute for the Cottagers.

"We didn't give up. You keep going," said the 27-year-old. "We fought hard and I think we deserved some goals."

Atletico Madrid reached the final with a 2-1 loss at Liverpool that left the aggregate tied 2-2 and advanced the Spanish team 1-0 on away goals.

Liverpool took a 2-0 lead — and was set to advance — on goals by Alberto Aquilani in the 44th minute and Yossi Benayoun five minutes into overtime. But Diego Forlan scored in the 12th minute of overtime, sending the Reds to their fourth straight trophy-less season.

"It's a season when everything has gone against us, but the players worked so hard you have to be proud of them," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.

"It was a really difficult game — we knew they would come after us," Forlan said. "I feared the worst when Benayoun scored, but we knew we only needed one goal and we kept going."

Fulham has long been overshadowed in London by Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham. But the Cottagers beat defending UEFA Cup champion Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian power Juventus and German champion Wolfsburg en route to the final.

"There's been a major piece of history here tonight," said Fulham manager Roy Hodgson, the modest coach who guided Switzerland to a World Cup berth and Inter Milan to a UEFA Cup final. "The atmosphere is something that we'll remember for a long time. We've had a very tough passage to the final and we've beaten a very good team here tonight to achieve that. I'm a little bit drained of emotion at this moment. You go through a roller-coaster out there."

Hamburg was playing its first game under interim coach Ricardo Moniz, who took over Monday after Bruno Labbadia was fired.

Dempsey, whose 82nd-minute goal on a flick eliminated Juventus in the third round, replaced Bobby Zamora, who has been bothered by an Achilles' tendon problem.

Atletico can win a double by beating Fulham and then Sevilla in the King's Cup final a week later.

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