Chris Smalling and Danny Murphy returned to the starting line-up for Fulham as the Whites got back into Barclays Premier League action following Thursday evening’s historic win over Juventus. Smalling took the place of Brede Hangeland in central defence whilst Chris Baird returned to the right-back position, allowing Murphy to take up his place in central midfield.
Man City were forced into a late change when Joleon Lescott pulled up with a hamstring strain in the warm-up, he was replaced by Javier Garrido.
Mark Schwarzer was called into action in the second minute to tip a goal-bound shot from Carlos Tevez around the post at full stretch.
Manchester City took the lead on seven minutes just moments after Zoltan Gera saw his lobbed effort cleared off the line by Kolo Toure. From the clearance City quickly worked the ball up the pitch to Craig Bellamy, whose shot deflected onto the post, the rebound evaded Mark Schwarzer and fell into the path of Roque Santa Cruz who tapped the ball in from two yards. There was certainly a huge slice of fortune about the opener.
With both sides effectively cancelling each other out for a long spell following the goal, the game was characterised by a number of passes going astray as both teams looked to work a goal opportunity.
By the 26 minute mark City had registered eight shots on target to Fulham’s two, yet that stat did not accurately convey the flow of the game – which was far closer than the numbers suggested.
Carlos Tevez looked City’s most dangerous player in the first-half, often dropping off the front line the Argentinean looked to collect the ball to his feet and run at the Whites’ back line. And it was Tevez who doubled City’s lead in the 36th minute. He started the move off by feeding a pass out to Bellamy on the wing who advanced down the line and crossed back into the path of Tevez, he took the ball around Smalling and fired past Schwarzer with a smart finish.
Bobby Zamora made way for Clint Dempsey on 51 minutes as Roy Hodgson looked to refresh his second-half attacking options. The American international joined Gera up front as the Whites looked to narrow the deficit. Hodgson’s second change of the afternoon came soon after on 55 minutes when Stefano Okaka came on for Gera.
Adam Johnson fed the ball to Santa Cruz on the edge of the Fulham area as City surged forward on 57 minutes. Santa Cruz’s effort produced an excellent parry from Schwarzer to deny the Paraguayan. Johnson himself came within a whisker of extending his side’s lead when he cut in from the right wing and drove a left footed shot towards goal, which clipped the outside of the post.
Fulham soon settled into a more recognisable rhythm as their two substitutes adjusted into the pace of the game. Damien Duff began seeing more of the ball on the right wing as the momentum started to shift in Fulham’s direction.
Whilst the Whites were looking more comfortable in possession, the better goal opportunities were still falling City’s way, with Adam Johnson again going close on 67 minutes with an attempted curler.
Danny Murphy pulled a goal back for the Whites on 74 minutes when a spell of Fulham pressure culminated in Chris Baird’s cross being handled in the area by Gareth Barry. Murphy confidently sent Shay Given the wrong way from the spot.
Fulham were most certainly on the ascendancy as Murphy and Etuhu wrestled control of the midfield area from Vieira and Barry. Roque Santa Cruz ever so gradually made way for Nigel de Jong on 79 minutes as Mancini looked to toughen his side up for the final moments.
Hodgson replaced Chris Baird with Bjorn Helge Riise on 80 minutes in a final throw of the dice. Simon Davies moved to right-back with Riise taking up position on the right wing. And Riise almost immediately presented Stefano Okaka with a great opportunity - unfortunately the Italian Under-21 international placed his finish just wide of the near post.
There was chaos in the Man City area on 86 minutes when Riise delivered a teasing ball low across the face of the area. It was eventually hacked away following a number of desperate attempts to clear the danger.
Chris Smalling joined Dempsey and Okaka up front to add further threat to the Whites’ forward line late on. There were loud penalty appeals on 90 minutes when Riise’s cross stuck Kompany on the hand, which the referee waved away. The final whistle was blown soon after.