Fulham went out of the Carling Cup on Wednesday evening but only after a tough encounter against Manchester City went to extra-time at Eastlands.
The Whites took the lead through a spectacular first-half strike from Zoltan Gera but City equalised shortly after the break when Gareth Barry headed home from Craig Bellamy’s corner. The score remained level in normal time but City managed to net the winner in the 111th minute through a Kolo Toure header.
Roy Hodgson made eleven changes from the side that lined-up against Wolves on Sunday. With Seol Ki-Hyeon and Eddie Johnson leading the line, it was certainly a new look attack.
The home side managed their first effort on target when, on 9 minutes, Gareth Barry rose highest in the area to send a header straight at David Stockdale. – the big keeper collected with ease.
It was the only opportunity of an entertaining opening spell which saw both sides produce tidy and attractive football without worrying their opposing goalkeeper. Mark Hughes’ men occasionally produced phases of delightful one-touch football but often their passing movements were snuffled out by a well structured Fulham side.
Fulham’s defensive organisation was not to the detriment of their attacking instincts however, as they got forward with purpose. Eddie Johnson in particular was working hard along the City back line.
City’s attacks became more menacing as the first-half progressed but despite holding the upper hand in terms of possession, many of their ventures forward failed to find the final pass. Craig Bellamy, up against Fredrik Stoor, was finding it hard to make his pace count as the Swedish fullback was giving no quarter.
Fulham opened the scoring through a spectacular Zoltan Gera strike on 34 minutes. The Hungarian international, who was having an impressive evening, latched on to a touch infield from Eddie Johnson – sending the ball whistling past Shay Given into the back of the net from 30 yards.
City tried to strike back quickly and on 43 minutes Carlos Tevez managed to wriggle through two challenges on the edge of the Fulham penalty area, only to be denied by a forceful block from Chris Smalling.
Both sides were unchanged following the half-time interval. Unfortunately City started the brighter and were back on level terms on 51 minutes after a David Stockdale failed to punch a Bellamy corner clear and Gareth Barry was waiting to head the ball over the line from eight yards.
The goal injected fresh impetus into the home side’s attacking play. City were pinning their hopes on wingers Shaun Wright-Phillips and Craig Bellamy to lead the comeback. But whilst Bellamy was looking the most threatening of the City players, he was constantly denied by the attentions of Stoor.
Kagisho Dikgacoi made his Fulham debut on 70 minutes when he came on for Simon Davies. The change saw Bjorn Helge Riise move to the right side of midfield, allowing Dikgacoi to pair up with Jonathan Greening in the middle of the park. Chris Baird donned the captain’s armband as a result.
Seol Ki-Hyeon came close to giving Fulham the lead late on when he was denied by Given, who produced a wonderful save to claw the ball off the line.
Fulham closed the game looking strong in attack and were, without doubt, enjoying their best period of the game. Much of Fulham’s stability was largely thanks to the firm base provided by Chris Smalling and Chris Baird, with the latter putting in another impeccable performance.
With neither side able to find the winning goal in normal time a period of extra-time was needed. David Elm came on for Eddie Johnson at the start of extra-time, giving the Whites a different attacking option up front.
The first period of extra-time saw Craig Bellamy force David Stockdale into a fine save when he raced into the area and fired a powerful shot on goal from a narrow angle. Stockdale reacted well to parry the ball away.
The home fans were growing restless as Fulham continued to absorb City’s pressure and gradually work their way up the field. The first period ended with Carlos Tevez stretching to get his head to a Wayne Bridge cross which went straight to Stockdale.
Fulham looked to be getting stronger as the game went on and Bjorn Helge Riise came within inches of scoring for the Whites early in the second period of extra-time. The Norwegian international turned well past Joleon Lescott but his left-footed effort curled just wide of Given’s right hand post.
Kolo Toure scored the winning goal in the 111th minute when he rose highest amongst a group of bodies at the back post to head in a Martin Petrov corner from close range.
Competition: Carling Cup
Date: Wednesday 23 September 2009
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Team line-up is not available.
Team line-up is not available.