Saturday 27 March 2004, 3:00pm at Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Barclays Premier League
Manchester City
Manchester City
0
Fulham FC
Fulham
0
A tale of two turned-down penalties at Eastlands turned the spotlight away from both sides' poor finishing in a game sparse of quality.

60' Yellow Card

Sylvain Distin Card was given for a foul

64' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Jonathan Macken
Off:Robbie Fowler

64' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Paulo Wanchope
Off:Nicolas Anelka

80' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Trevor Sinclair
Off:Antoine Sibierski

70' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Brian McBride
Off:Barry Hayles

0
15
30
45
60
75
90

Six days after a harsh spot-kick decision had gone against them at Leeds, City were denied their own penalty chance when Alain Goma sent Jon Macken tumbling inthe area and then compounded the problem by handling the ball. 

On neither occasion did Teesside official Jeff Winter rule against the defender and his answer was also negative when City skipper Sylvain Distin sentLuis Boa Morte flying 10 minutes from time.

 Television replays indicated Winter got it wrong on both occasions, which was totally in keeping with the rest of a game where the error count was far in excess of any vestiges of flair. 

The point was just what Cottagers boss Chris Coleman seemed to have settled for when, having lost four key players to injury in the 48 hours prior tokick-off, he opted to pack the midfield and force City to play their way through. 

The tactic worked almost perfectly in a drab encounter almost completely lacking in any goalmouth action until a late flurry of activity that followed Boa Morte's failed penalty claim. 

While the point lifted City one place in the table, Portsmouth's win at Blackburn has landed the Blues in more relegation strife, news that absent boss Kevin Keegan would hardly welcome as he recovers from a back complaint which required a cortisone injection earlier in the week. 

Yet, if Keegan had personally selected one game to miss from a largely frustrating season, this was it. With Steve McManaman consigned to the stands with a calf injury and England hopeful Shaun Wright-Phillips producing one of the worst performances of another wise highly impressive campaign, the Blues were devoid of attacking invention and their attempts to muscle their way into positions of promise usually stalled long before they had got near the Fulham box. 

Antoine Sibierski was heavily involved in the decent possession City did have.  The Frenchman provided the near post cross that Robbie Fowler met with a firm enough flick but without sufficient angle to really trouble Edwin van der Sar. 

Sibierski then seemed to get his feet stuck when he was played onside by a slow-moving Fulham defence and found Claudio Reyna's header landing in close proximity and was unable to unleash any sort of shot on goal when he looked very well placed.

Having decided there was no way through by keeping the ball on the deck, both sides opted for the aerial route after half-time. Barry Hayles was blocked off by Distin as he attempted to reach Edwin van der Sar's long punt forward, then Robbie Fowler completely mis-hit his volley when he played an intricate one-two with Nicolas Anelka after Sibierski had looped a pass to the edge of the Fulham box.

It was a minute short of the hour mark before David James was forced into his first meaningful save, a full-length parry from Sean Davis' angled effort that the impressive Richard Dunne was on hand to boot clear. 

Arthur Cox's bold decision to replace mis-firing Robbie Fowler and Nicolas Anelka with Macken and Paulo Wanchope would have paid instant dividends had Winter not controversially ruled against the substitute's 66th-minute double penalty claim. After a brief flurry of activity which followed that incident, the play swiftly slumped back to the pitiful pattern of what had gone before. 

If talent was not going to win the day, a mistake might have done had Distin's foolhardy attempt to make up for gifting Boa Morte possession by the touchline rightfully ended up with the concession of a penalty. The decision seemed more obvious than the first but Winter again said no, much to the anger of Coleman who flew out of his dug-out to vent his frustration. 

Amid the anger, Fulham briefly let their guard slip and van der Sar was forced to make two excellent saves to deny Wanchope and Macken, then James replied with one of his own, rising quickly to prevent Steed Malbranque swooping on the rebound after the England man had turned away Davis' long-range drive to ensure a point neither side deserved any more than.

Match Information

Competition: Barclays Premier League

Date: Saturday 27 March 2004
Kick-off: 3:00pm

Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Attendance: 46,522

Referee: Jeff Winter

Manchester City

Line-up: James; Jihai, Dunne, Distin, Tarnat; Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Reyna, Sibierski (Sinclair 80'); Fowler (Macken 64'), Anelka (Wanchope 64')

Unused substitutes: Arason, Barton

Fulham

Line-up: Van der Sar; Volz, Knight, Goma, Bocanegra; Malbranque, Pembridge, Davis, Djetou, Boa Morte; Hayles (McBride 70')

Unused substitutes: Beasant, Inamoto, Rehman, Sava

As It Stood Table

Pos Club Pl Pts
1 Arsenal 29 73
2 Chelsea 30 67
3 Manchester United 29 61
4 Liverpool 29 45
5 Newcastle United 29 45
6 Birmingham City 30 45
7 Aston Villa 30 43
8 Charlton Athletic 30 43
9 Fulham 30 40
10 Southampton 30 39
11 Middlesbrough 30 38
12 Tottenham Hotspur 30 37
13 Everton 30 34
14 Bolton Wanderers 29 34
15 Manchester City 30 31
16 Blackburn Rovers 30 31
17 Portsmouth 30 30
18 Leicester City 29 27
19 Leeds United 30 25
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 30 24
Manchester City (4-4-2)
  • 1David James
  • 17Sun Jihai
  • 22Richard Dunne
  • 15Sylvain Distin
  • Michael Tarnat
  • 11Shaun Wright-Phillips
  • Paul Bosvelt
  • Claudio Reyna
  • 10Antoine Sibierski
  • Robbie Fowler
  • 39Nicolas Anelka
Substitutes
  • Arni Gauter Arason
  • 8Joey Barton
  • 28Trevor Sinclair
  • Paulo Wanchope
  • 10Jonathan Macken
Fulham (4-5-1)
  • 1Edwin Van der Sar
  • 2Moritz Volz
  • 16Zat Knight
  • 24Alain Goma
  • 34Carlos Bocanegra
  • 4Steed Malbranque
  • 7Mark Pembridge
  • 23Sean Davis
  • 17Martin Djetou
  • 11Luis Boa Morte
  • 15Barry Hayles
Substitutes
  • 21Dave Beasant
  • 6Junichi Inamoto
  • 28Zesh Rehman
  • 8Brian McBride
  • 9Facundo Sava