Fulham 1 Manchester City 2

A gallant effort but one ultimately doomed to failure. Fulham did their best to resist the attacking fluency of City and for 80 minutes seemed to have succeeded until late changes to both sides saw the current league champions finally find a way past our defence.

I’d love to be able to give you some flowing prose about the opening exchanges in which the Whites were perhaps the stronger side. Unfortunately my arrival at the ground was delayed due to my Dad getting stuck on the M25 and we missed the first 25 minutes. In that time we’d taken the lead after Riise had won a possibly soft penalty that Petric calmly converted. Rodallega had almost collected a Chris Baird through ball, and later done well on the left wing to set up Petric, who scuffed his shot over the bar.

By the time I was in my seat City were beginning to take a greater hold on the game and the chances came thick and fast. Riise looking a little exposed on the left (with Fulham lined up 4-3-3) was struggling to contain Zabaletta and City were retaining the ball better than we could. A goal mouth scramble saw the ball poked towards the net but somehow Schwarzer combined with a bevy of Fulham defenders to stop it from crossing the line. It was a brief respite though as, with two minutes to half time, Tevez fired in a deflected shot that Schwarzer did brilliantly to save but our old nemesis Aguero popped up to poke in the rebound.

The second half struggled to find the same spark of excitement. City dominated possession but rarely looked capable of carving out a clear cut opening. Baird & Sidwell worked hard in the middle to disrupt their attacks, and both fullbacks strove manfully to contain City’s wide men. Tevez departed to a chorus of insults to be replaced by Balotelli and Fulham switched to 4-4-2 as Alex Kacaniklic replaced the fading Petric. We managed glimmers of hope with a couple of counter attacks as the game became stretched. Good work from Kacaniklic seemed to have gone to waste as he ran into a wall of defence but he did find room to cut back a pass and Ruiz fizzed a shot towards goal that force Hart into a prompt save.

Baird signalled to the bench he’d done something to his leg and was replaced with 10 minutes to play by the eagerly anticipated Karagounis. The greek was straight into the fray, disappointly conceeding a free kick in the edge of our box. Thankfully, after some ball placing shenanigans, Balotelli smacked his attempt straight into our wall and the threat was wasted. Luck would not remain on our side though. City’s strength in depth was highlighted further when they introduced Edin Dzeko late on. He scored within a minute after out defence, surely running on vapours by now, failed to clear the ball and his sliced shot flew past Schwarzer into the top corner. A well taken goal but a bitter blow.

4 thoughts on “Fulham 1 Manchester City 2

  1. I think we can take some positives from this match. We kept our shape nicely, did not break despite a huge amount of pressure, and defended brilliantly (Hughes in particular). These are all things that we were concerned we would lose with Jol’s outlook. That we lost in the last few minutes to a team that won the league last year after a scrappy goal and 100m in talent (and probably about enough in wages to pay for 3/5th of our team) was brought off the bench, is really neither here nor there. On another day, this was a draw or even possibly a scrappy goal victory for us. This bodes well when we play our peers, whoever they may be; we seem to be better than all but six teams in this league.

    Baird for me was the real plus today. His passing was not just assured but forward-looking. He is growing into this role by the match and I hope he isn’t out for any time as a result of whatever knock he got.

    The one big lesson learned for me was that we look a lot better when Rodallega plays through the middle. He was too often too deep dealing with defending to make a nuisance of himself on the counter. Whatever we think of Petric, Rodallega needs to lead the line.

    To accommodate Rodallega, I would move Ruiz over to the left for the next match. Ruiz proven today that he is a real asset to the team both offensively and defensively, but I think his workrate and creativity will play better on the wing. He has always looked better when able to face the goal and run at players. And, as with most of his type, Dembele the big exception, he isn’t powerful enough or small enough to get there in the middle I don’t think. In addition, Riise, I think looked exposed because he had Rodallega ahead of him, and Ruiz would provide a lot better protection. Finally, and most importantly, Ruiz, in trying to be creative, loses the ball too often for someone playing in the middle. Here are the pass success rates for the team: Duff 87%; Petric 86%; Sidwell 83%; Baird 83%; Hangeland 83%; Kacaniklic 75%; Ruiz 75%; Reither 69%; Riise 67%; Rodallega 65%; Hughes 65%; Schwarzer 52%. That is not good enough for a central midfielder, especially a No. 10. Those are winger numbers, where Ruiz should be, so that he is free to express himself and the team doesn’t have to worry about us losing the ball so often in key areas.

    1. I was impressed with Rodallega in both positions. I thought his work rate was really good but totally agree he is better suited to a central role. I think it’s going to be interesting to see who Jol selects as his first choice attack when everyone is fit & available.

  2. “In that time we’d taken the lead after Riise had won a possibly soft penalty that Petric calmly converted.”

    No “possibly” about it. Riise poked the ball through Zabaleta’s legs and then tripped over his own feet (a less generous description might say “dove”). On the other hand, we didn’t get a justified penalty in the second half when Kacaniklic had a cross blocked by Zabaleta’s hand (right before his deflected pass fell right to Ruiz who took a solid shot but right at Hart, if you recall the sequence), so things even out.

    Overall, a solid effort but City just have way more firepower than we do. But hey, we gave them a game even though we were without a couple of our best players.

    1. Yeah, having seen the penalty incident on TV I agree. The “possibly” statement was more about the fact I was sitting in a car on the Fulham Palace Road when it happened!

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