A successful era has to come an end at Craven Cottage as Mohammed Al-Fayed successfully completed the sale of Fulham Football Club to American billionaire Shahid Khan. Al-Fayed changed the course of Fulham's history when he bought the club lying in desperate straits in 1997. He made some marquee appointments in the position of manager, and pumped money into the squad, buying a whole host of players above the level of the old division three in which Fulham were languishing.
The mood around the club was transformed, and Fulham embarked on a remarkable upswing all the way to the Premier League, where they are now comfortably established as a mid-table club. A prominent feature of Al-Fayed's legacy will be the purchases of an array of attacking talent at different stages of his tenure, including Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte, Steed Malbranque, Sylvain Legwinski, Bobby Zamora, Clint Dempsey, Mousa Dembele and Dimitar Berbatov. These players had a big role in Fulham causing many upsets agains the big boys of English football, and were also pivotal in their dream run to the Europa League final in 2010. I pay tribute to Fulham's glorious results under Mohammed Al-Fayed's stewardship of the club, by reminiscing five of the best footballing moments of his era:
5) Huddersfield 1 Fulham 2 - April 14, 2001
Under the astute management of Jean Tigana, Fulham were comprehensively the best side in division one, dominating all comers with attractive attacking football. Louis Saha and Luis Boa Morte had formed a lethal attacking partnership up front, and both played their part in securing the most important victory of Fulham's history.
Top scorer Louis Saha hit his 29th goal of the season from the penalty spot at the McAlpine Stadium only for Delroy Facey to give struggling Huddersfield a lifeline with the equaliser. But Luis Boa Morte struck the winner with five minutes remaining to crown a wonderful season by gaining promotion to the Premier League. Saha and Boa Morte's double act on the day was a harbinger of things to come, as the Fulham duo made life miserable for many a premiership defence.
4) Manchester United 1 Fulham 3 - October 25, 2003
Fulham had started the 2003-2004 season really well under new manager Chris Coleman, and by the time November came around, the club were a remarkable fifth in the table. One of the most impressive results in their great start to the season, was an absolute masterclass in defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Fulham came racing out of the blocks, Lee Clark scoring in the third minute from a Steed Malbranque cross. On the back of their opener, Fulham continued to dominate, missing chances and Mark Pembridge hitting the crossbar. Diego Forlan scored an equalizer against the run of play on the stroke of half-time.
However, Fulham were not to be deterred, and came out all guns blazing in the second half. Malbranque scored an opportunist goal in the 66th minute, and Fulham completed their spectacular win with this brilliant team move and goal from Junichi Inamoto.
3) Fulham 2 Hamburg 1 - April 28, 2010
Fulham had captured the hearts of the nation and many across Europe with a great run in the 2010 Europa League. Roy Hodgson's men went away to Hamburg for the first leg of the semifinal. On the back of Mark Schwarzer making several brilliant saves, Fulham escaped with a 0-0 draw and a perfect away result.
There was a sense of excitement and belief at Craven Cottage for the return leg, however it quickly evaporated when Mladen Petric hit a sensational free-kick straight out of the Roberto Carlos left-footed curling manual. With time running out and the tension rising amongst the home support, Simon Davies hit a brilliant equalizer, before Zoltan Gera scored in a goalmouth scramble to send Fulham to the final.
Fulham vs Hamburg 2-1 by RNorbi72
2) Mancester City 2 Fulham 3 - April 26, 2008
Lawrie Sanchez led Fulham to a disastrous start to the 2007-08 Premier League campaign, winning just two matches in the first five months, leaving the club firmly entrenched in the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson was brought into fix the situation, but despite some improvement in the team's form it all seemed a bit too late.
In the third-to-last match against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium, Fulham were 2-0 down after 21 minutes and for all intents and purposes were relegated at that point. Fulham's relegation rivals threw away leads, to give the Cottagers some hope that ratcheted up when Diomansy Kamara scored past Joe Hart. Hope changed into belief when Danny Murphy scored a rebound from his missed penalty, and Fulham's sense of destiny was borne out when Kamara scored a scarcely believable winner. With momentum on their side, Fulham won their remaining two matches to complete a most remarkable survival story.
1) Fulham 4 Juventus 1 - March 18, 2010
For those who complain about the relevance of the Europa League, just ask Fulham fans about the atmosphere around this match. Fulham were provided a lesson in the first leg of their round of 16 match against Juventus in Turin. Juve scored three first half goals, with Dickson Etuhu providing some semblance of hope with a consolation goal for Fulham.
All hope seemed extinguished when David Trezeguet scored for the Old Lady in the second minute of the return leg. To their credit Hodgson's men rallied immediately, with Bobby Zamora equalizing on the night seven minutes later. A Zoltan Gera double either side of half time brought Fulham level on aggregate. Then in the 82nd minute the roof came off Craven Cottage, as Clint Dempsey scored a sensational lob to complete a fairytale comeback and give Fulham their greatest European victory.
Fulham: Europa League Fairytale 2009/2010 from Macu on Vimeo.