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7 things you’ve forgotten about the first ever Europa League campaign

An English club were almost crowned champions of the tournament before it was cool

Winning the UEFA Cup is so 2009. The Europa League is where it’s at now Grampa.

Because nothing says European solidarity like everyone playing in the same bleeding cup league.

So cast your mind back, if you will, to the first ever Europa League campaign, when we were still young and enthusiastic, and Thursday nights in Kazakhstan hadn’t wilted away our love for Europe’s second best competition.

The Holy Grail

AFP OR LICENSORS
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The Holy Grail

We know 2009/10 were big years, so allow us to patch up any hazy memories you may have an fill in the blanks. Sit back, strap up and get ready for a warm cup of nostalgia.

Lisburn Distillery spent too long on the booze

Talking about hazy memories, we doubt Lisburn fans look back too fondly on the first qualifying round.

Lisburn-Distillery

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Absolutely battered

Before all the real action kicks off there’s three glorious rounds of qualifying, featuring the likes of Azerbaijan’s Inter Baku, the mighty B36 Torshavn and the cap-lock friendly MTZ-RIPO Minsk.

Clearly the Lisburn boys took a trip to the distillery before their first-round tie against Georgia’s Zestaponi, because they were hammered, no pummelled, 11-1 over two legs, the biggest defeat of the round.


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Better luck next year.

Fulham found themselves 4-1 down to Juventus at one point

*SPOILER ALERT* We won’t ruin the ending for anyone who hasn’t finished watching Europa League 2009/10 re-runs, however let’s just say Fulham did quite well.

Fulham

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Theatre of dreams

But at one point it wasn’t looking good for Roy Hodgson’s men. In fact, at 20:02 in a quiet corner of South-West London The Whites found themselves 4-1 down to Italian giants Juventus with just 88 minutes left to play.

Two red cards, including one for former Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro, a Clint Dempsey chip, and some hefty hold up play from Bobby Zamora later and Fulham had gatecrashed the quarter-finals.

Defending took a back seat in the knockout rounds

With the Champions League losers dropping down into the round of 32 you’d expect the level of defending to get higher. But you were wrong. Very, very wrong.

Rubin-Kazan

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Squad goals

In the round of 32, round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals only one side managed to keep a clean sheet over two legs.

The club in question? Trusty Rubin Kazan who shutout Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-0 in the round of 32 before being knocked out by Wolfsburg.

The top scorer only made it to the round of 16

Everyone’s favourite Peruvian footballer, (second if you’re a paid up member of Jefferson Farfan’s fanclub), Claudio Pizzaro had quite the tournament.

Claudio-Pizzaro

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Chelsea legend

He top scored with nine goals despite only making it to the round of 16 with Werder Bremen.

That’s a goal every 76.8888888889 minutes, David Nugent-esque stats. And just looks how pleased with himself he was.


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We were 18 minutes away from having an all-English final

Only 18 minutes and Atletico Madrid stood between England literally (completely metaphorically) owning the whole of Europe.

While Fulham did a job on Hamburg to book their place in, err, Hamburg, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool were knocked out by an extra-time Diego Forlan goal. More to come on him later.

To be fair to Rafa, he managed to make it all the way to the semi-final with a team featuring Alberto Aquilani, Ryan Babel, Philip Degen and David N’Gog. Hats off to him.

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Dickson Etuhu marked Sergio Aguero out of the final

Etuhu vs Aguero. A modern day David vs Goliath. And everyone knows how that ended up.

True to script Aguero hardly had a sniff on the night as everywhere he went Etuhu followed.

Unfortunately that opened up a fair amount of space for the extra-time pest Forlan to operate, and he p***** on Fulham’s bonfire by scoring the winner in the 118th minute of the game.

Dickson-Etuhu

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Aguero still lives in Etuhu’s pocket

The list of the top assist makers was oh so dreamy

Mesut Ozil? Tick Angel Di Maria? Tick. Luis Suarez? Tick. David Silva? Tick. Zinedine Zidane? Okay, maybe not him.

The top five goal makers in the tournament read like a who’s who of future world-class footballers.

But wait, who’s missing? It’s only John Arne Riise’s brother Bjorn who popped up with four assists for Fulham, putting him on a par with Suarez and Silva.

Bloody loves a European assist

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Bloody loves a European assist

Believe us when we say that is the only time in history that sentence will be written.


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