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Fulham, Liverpool, Atletico, Hamburg into semis

Fulham extended its remarkable run in the Europa League by ousting German champion Wolfsburg to reach the semifinals, where it was joined by Premier League rival Liverpool.

Liverpool: Fulham extended its remarkable run
in the Europa League by ousting German champion Wolfsburg to
reach the semifinals, where it was joined by Premier League
rival Liverpool.

Bobby Zamora scored after 21 seconds to build on Fulham`s
first-leg lead yesterday and send the London club through 3-1
on aggregate. It`s the deepest Fulham has gone in European

"It`s nice to make history and I`m so delighted for the
players," Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said. "They were gutted
by the goal we conceded in the last minute of the first leg at
Craven Cottage and it`s fantastic they`ve come here and kept a
clean sheet."

If Fulham is to reach the final at Hamburg`s stadium it
must now eliminate the German club, which made the semifinals
by beating Standard Liege 5-2 over two legs.

Liverpool will play Atletico Madrid in the other
semifinal after overturning a 2-1 first-leg deficit against
Benfica to advance 5-3 on aggregate.

Atletico went through thanks to the away-goals rule, a
2-2 draw at Valencia last Thursday being followed by a 0-0
home draw in the second leg. The semifinal first legs are on
April 22, with the return fixtures the following Thursday.

The victories for Fulham and Liverpool ensure the world`s
wealthiest domestic league will continue to have
representatives in Europe this season. England`s last
Champions League hopefuls, Manchester United and Arsenal, were
knocked out in this week`s quarterfinals.

"It`s very good for England," Liverpool manager Rafa
Benitez said. "Hopefully we will see Fulham in the final and
we can talk about two English teams there."

Fulham, which ousted UEFA Cup holder Shakhtar Donetsk and
Juventus in the previous rounds, couldn`t have hoped for a
better start in Germany. Zamora picked up a short pass from
Zoltan Gera, turned past Jan Simunek and slotted his finish
inside the right-hand post to net his 19th goal of the season.
Fulham then withstood Wolfsburg pressure to progress with
some comfort.

At Anfield, Liverpool was facing a Benfica side on a
27-match unbeaten run but Dirk Kuyt headed the host in front
in the 28th minute, latching onto Steven Gerrard`s corner to
make it 2-2 on aggregate.

The goal was initially ruled out as the referee`s
assistant on the right flank flagged for offside. But after
Fernando Torres led Liverpool`s protests, referee Bjorn
Kuipers reversed the decision and Kuyt was able to end a
1,084-minute goal drought.

Six minutes later, Lucas Leiva gave Liverpool a two-goal
cushion after completing a swift counterattack.

Having being released by Yossi Benayoun, Gerrard sent a
defense-splitting pass through to the advancing Lucas, who
rounded goalkeeper Julio Cesar and slotted into the net.

Another lightning-quick break forward saw Liverpool go
4-2 in front on aggregate in the 59th minute. After
successfully defending a Benfica free kick, Javier Mascherano
dispatched the ball to Benayoun, who raced down the left flank
before passing to Kuyt on the right.

Kuyt crossed to Torres, who fired the ball into the net
from six meters (yards).

Liverpool looked to be cruising into the last four, but
Oscar Cardoza poked a low free kick through the defensive wall
to make it 4-3 on aggregate with 20 minutes to go.

Torres netted again in the 82nd by clipping the ball over
Jose Moreira, who had just replaced the injured Julio Cesar in

Torres will now face Atletico, which he left in 2007.
Atletico withstood late chances and a penalty appeal by
Valencia to draw 0-0 and advance on the away-goals rule.

Valencia had a penalty claim turned away in the 85th when
Nicola Zigic appeared to be hauled down inside the area.

Atletico will be without striker Sergio Aguero for the
first leg against Liverpool after the striker picked up a
pointless yellow card for time wasting as he was substituted
in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

"Liverpool`s a great team and with Fernando coming here,
we`ll have to play a great game," goalkeeper David De Gea

Hamburg arrived in Liege leading 2-1 from the first leg.
Mladen Petric scored twice in the first half _ either side of
Igor De Camargo`s goal for Standard - to put the German club
in further control of the quarterfinal.

Hamburg`s Paolo Guerrero scored the third deep into
second-half injury time.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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