Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Sunday December 7 2008
The teams shared the honours, in front of the Sky Sports cameras, at Craven Cottage in a game that ebbed and flowed with both teams having chances.
Roy Hodgson was able to select the same starting eleven for the fourth game in succession with Clint Dempsey keeping Zoltan Gera out. For the opposition, Mark Hughes was unable to call upon the talents of his superstar Brazilian, Robinho, who was ruled out with an ankle knock.
Man City started the half the better of the two sides. Shaun Wright-Phillips had an effort that went wide whereas the only glimpse Fulham had of anything half decent was a half-hearted appeal for a penalty when Dempsey crashed to the floor.
City capitalised on their good start by taking the lead in the 6th minute. Zabaleta delivered a great cross from the right and Benjani produced a text-book downward header into the net. Two minutes later City should have doubled their lead when Ireland shot wide after Schwarzer had come for a cross and missed it.
Fulham, slowly got back into the game and Johnson was foiled by Hart who rushed out well to smother a through ball. But, it wasn`t until halfway through the half that Fulham started to make a real impression.
With twenty-one minutes gone Dunne clearly handled the ball as Johnson tried to flick it past him but the referee waved play on. Two corners followed in quick succession and Dempsey almost hit the target with a header.
The equaliser came in the 27th minute and followed a fine period of passing play whereby Murphy, Dempsey and Zamora combined to fee Bullard. From an acute angle Bullard`s shot screamed past Hart and into the far corner. It, surprisingly, was Bullard`s first goal of the season.
City responded and Vassell saw a shot go narrowly wide before a Zamora screamer was unfortunately blocked by Johnson. Dempsey then had two good opportunities, the first saw a shot flicked wide after good play from Zamora and Johnson whilst the second, a header, also went just wide.
As the half approached its conclusion Benjani fired wide form twenty-two yards and Ben Haim headed a corner wide after some silky skills from Wright-Phillips had left Hangeland beaten.
It had been a good opening forty-five minutes once Fulham had got going.
The second half saw Fulham start well. Zamora had a half chance after Johnson`s pace had created a chance, but Zamora lost his footing at a vital stage. Minutes later Zamora curled a low shot inches past the post after being given an unbelievable amount of space in the box.
City were giving as good as they got though and Zabaleta, down the right flank, was proving a real thorn. One raid saw Dempsey have to clear. Still pushing forward Kompany saw a looping header saved by Schwarzer after Benjani had won a corner.
Zabaleta, still being allowed to push forward, then forced a save from Schwarzer before Ireland fired meekly wide as City looked to get that crucial second goal.
Just past the hour mark Pantsil received the first yellow card of the game for a lunge from behind on Wright-Phillips. Ben Haim lashed a shot well over after a City corner had been cleared before Fulham had their best period of the half.
With sixty-five minute splayed Bullard tested Hart with a low drive that the keeper did well with before minutes later forcing Hart to pull off a great save from a swerving thirty yard free kick.
As we moved into the last quarter Bullard had a free kick in almost the same place. Instead of going for power though he tried to place it but Hart read the situation well and easily saved.
Schwarzer then had to deny Zabaleta again before a spell of three corners, in the last few minutes, failed to produce that winner Fulham craved. Two points lost, a point won - you decide?
Date:Sunday December 7 2008
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