Wednesday 29 January 2003, 8:00pm at Maine Road, Manchester
Barclays Premier League
Manchester City
Manchester City
4
Anelka 21'; Benarbia 47'; Foe 61'; Wright-Phillips 70'
Fulham FC
Fulham
1
Malbranque 2'
Fulham are beaten 1-4 by Manchester City.

21' Goal

Nicolas Anelka

47' Goal

Ali Benarbia

61' Goal

Marc Vivien Foe

70' Goal

Shaun Wright-Phillips

29' Yellow Card

Marc Vivien Foe Card was given for a foul

55' Yellow Card

David Sommeil Card was given for a foul

60' Yellow Card

Niclas Jensen Card was given for a foul

70' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Shaun Wright-Phillips
Off:Ali Benarbia

86' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Shaun Goater
Off:Nicolas Anelka

2' Goal

Steed Malbranque

66' Yellow Card

Luis Boa Morte Card was given for a foul

0
15
30
45
60
75
90

The Robbie Fowler era started with a bang at Maine Road - and Manchester City's £6million striker wasn't even playing.  

Fowler will leave the depths of Leeds' despair and sign on the dotted line for Kevin Keegan's rising stars in the morning with his first task simply to win a first-team place.  

With Nicolas Anelka leading the charge, as he has most of the season, City overcame a dismal start and the loss of another early goal to record their biggest win of the season against a Fulham side who finished as badly beaten as the scoreline suggests.  

Anelka slotted home his 11th of the season to level Steed Malbranque's earlyopener, then played a pivotal role after the interval as City swept to victory with second half goals from Ali Benarbia, Marc Vivien Foe and Shaun Wright Phillips.  

While the debate over whether a new striker is really the priority Keegan hasmade it could be argued long and hard either way, there is no doubt Anelka hasbeen a class apart at the head of City's forward line.  

Shaun Goater and Darren Huckerby have both had a go at partnering thecontroversial French international at various stages of the season without toomuch success and on Wednesday it was the turn of Djamel Belmadi.  The Algerian, making his first start since signing on loan from Marseilleuntil the end of the season, darted around and looked more of a threat thaneither of his predecessors - although it was the second half before he startedto cause the Cottagers some damage.  

Belmadi's initial contribution was to loft a volley high over the bar after Anelka's flicked header had bounced over Alain Goma's head.  

That chance came at the end of a frenzied Fulham start, which raised all the old question marks about Keegan's tactical nous and defensive frailties.  

With £3.5million newcomer David Sommeil given a berth in a three-man central defence, Richard Dunne was switched to right wing-back and endured a torrid start as Steve Marlet and Luis Boa Morte led him a merry dance. 

After conceding inside 10 seconds on their last outing at Newcastle, City lasted a whole minute and a half longer this time round before Dunne deflected Steed Malbranque's attempted pass straight back into the Frenchman's path and then watched him despatch a 20-yard shot past Carlo Nash.  

In contrast to the blunder which gifted the Magpies their opener at St James'Park, Nash was blameless on this occasion and wouldn't have been at fault either a few minutes later had Malbranque's next effort from a similar position foundthe bottom corner rather than the base of his left-hand post.  

At that stage, Keegan must have been thanking his lucky stars Fowler had elected not to stay on and watch the game or a hasty change of heart might havebeen on the cards.  

It took the straightforward build-up to Anelka's goal to spark City into lifeas Sommeil fed Benarbia who in turn gave the French striker a scoring pass andthough the home defence still looked porous, Fulham couldn't muster the possession to take advantage. 

Fowler has cited Keegan's impressive sales technique as one of the major factors behind his imminent move and the oracle worked its magic again at the interval as City opened the second half even more rapidly than Fulham hadstarted the first.  

It took them just 58 seconds to find the net, Belmadi breaking down the rightand delivering the cross which fellow Algerian Benarbia mis-hit, but badly enough to totally deceive Maik Taylor, who was left flat-footed as it bounced over his shoulder.  

Yet that effort was forced to concede second place in the 'fast' stakes, asWright-Phillips found himself on the end of Dunne's flicked header and poked theball past Taylor with his first touch of the game barely 30 seconds after his arrival as substitute.  

The England under-21 international had replaced Benarbia, whose bravery had seen City extend their lead midway through the second-half, the City skipper diving amongst the Fulham feet to get his head onto Anelka's cross.  

Taylor, again startled, could not cling on to the ball and Marc-Vivien Foe bundled the rebound home for his seventh goal of the campaign and leave Fowler in no doubt that life in Manchester promises far more than the sinking ship heleaves behind.  

Postponements permitting, it was the last evening game ever to be played at the Blues' famous old home.  

If this is anything to go by, the City of Manchester Stadium will be the place to be next season.

Match Information

Competition: Barclays Premier League

Date: Wednesday 29 January 2003
Kick-off: 8:00pm

Venue: Maine Road, Manchester
Attendance: 33,260

Referee: Steve Bennett

Manchester City

Line-up: Nash; Sommeil, Distin, Dunne, Jensen; Benarbia (Wright-Phillips 70'), Foe, Howey, Horlock, Belmadi; Anelka (Goater 86')

Unused substitutes: Weaver, Jihai, Huckerby

Fulham

Line-up: Taylor; Finnan, Goma, Djetou, Brevett; Malbranque, Davis, Legwinski, Goldbaek; Boa Morte, Marlet

Unused substitutes: Herrera, Melville, Harley, Inamoto, Sava

As It Stood Table

Pos Club Pl Pts
1 Arsenal 25 53
2 Newcastle United 25 48
3 Manchester United 24 47
4 Chelsea 25 44
5 Everton 25 42
6 Liverpool 25 39
7 Southampton 25 39
8 Tottenham Hotspur 25 38
9 Manchester City 25 37
10 Charlton Athletic 25 36
11 Blackburn Rovers 25 34
12 Aston Villa 25 32
13 Leeds United 25 31
14 Middlesbrough 25 30
15 Fulham 24 27
16 Birmingham City 24 26
17 Bolton Wanderers 25 21
18 West Ham United 25 20
19 Sunderland 25 19
20 West Bromwich Albion 24 17
Manchester City (4-5-1)
  • 20Carlo Nash
  • 2David Sommeil
  • 15Sylvain Distin
  • 22Richard Dunne
  • Niclas Jensen
  • Ali Benarbia
  • Marc Vivien Foe
  • Steve Howey
  • Kevin Horlock
  • Djamel Belmadi
  • 39Nicolas Anelka
Substitutes
  • 12Nicky Weaver
  • 17Sun Jihai
  • 11Shaun Wright-Phillips
  • Shaun Goater
  • 6Darren Huckerby
Fulham (4-4-2)
  • 12Maik Taylor
  • 2Steve Finnan
  • 24Alain Goma
  • 17Martin Djetou
  • 3Rufus Brevett
  • 14Steed Malbranque
  • 23Sean Davis
  • 18Sylvain Legwinski
  • 19Bjarne Goldbaek
  • 11Luis Boa Morte
  • 7Steve Marlet
Substitutes
  • Martin Herrera
  • 4Andy Melville
  • 26Jon Harley
  • 6Junichi Inamoto
  • 9Facundo Sava