A bit of the old bulldog spirit saw Fulham earn a rousing home point against Man City’s powder blue oil billionaires. For a long time it was one of those bottom of the league afternoons, the players trying almost too hard to do things the right way, the fans nervous and wary.
That City scored first with a soft goal, perhaps a smidge offside, only confirmed what we all knew. The ball dinked through, Aguero, slick as you like, goal. General outrage in the stands but it looked close enough from my seat. Fulham responded with a fair amount of possession, but persisted with a laudable but frustrating brand of keep ball which often meant we kept the ball all the way back to our goalkeeper, often from encouraging initial positions. Dempsey had a couple of good shots, but surely we needed to be more direct, faster, more assertive?
If this is what we were going to do in the second half it’d have to wait a moment, as City scored a second straight from the kickoff. A long ball to the touchline drew Hangeland to challenge Dzeko, the latter won the ball, Aguero had all the time in the world and used it, smashing low and hard past Schwarzer’s dive.
We obviously feared the worst at this point, but the players persisted, and sure enough did try to get the ball forward quicker, did try to hit Zamora, did take a few more risks. Some sweet interplay between Dembele and Dempsey led to Zamora getting half a moment in the area, and he turned and swept home a surprising but euphoric strike to make it 2-1. Game on!
City withdrew the excellent Silva for the less excellent and more defensive Zabaleta, a signal that perhaps Mancini was concerned. Rightly so, as Murphy and Sidwell were running the game now, Kasami (on for Duff) had brought some impressive effervescence to the right flank, and everyone was trying to push City back. Dembele and Dempsey brought fine saves from Hart, then Murphy equalised with a sweet, sweet deflected dribbler: again Zamora deep in the area, teed up his captain, goal!
At this point it felt like there would only be one winner, but City dusted themselves down and played a bit more keep ball. Ruiz came on for his second taste of English football and one hospital ball aside acquitted himself quite well. Otherwise, three cheers all round for a fine team effort in which everyone played their part. It’s only a point but under the circumstances it feels like a win, and the players will feel a lot better about the world this evening.