2013/14: Barclays Premier League – Manchester City v Fulham
Saturday 22 March 2014 (11:00)
It’s almost ten years to the day since I last watched Fulham at Manchester City. Back then, on 27 March 2004, it was a very different scenario to the one today. With eight games to play, Fulham still harboured ambitions of a getting into one of the European spots, while City were only 4 points off the relegation zone. How times have changed. However for all that was riding on the game, the Fulham website summarised the subsequent 0 – 0 draw as, “a game sparse of quality”. At the end of that 2003/04 season City finished 16th in the Premier League with 41 points, whilst Fulham ended seven places higher and with 11 more points. The teams that day were:
Manchester City: D. James, Sun Jihai, S. Distin, R.Dunne, M. Tarnat, S. Wright-Phillips, A. Sibierski, P. Bosvelt, C. Reyna, N. Anelka, R. Fowler. Substitutes: A. Arason, T. Sinclair, J. Barton, J. Macken, P. Wanchope.
Fulham: E. van der Sar, M. Volz, C. Bocanegra, Z. Knight, A. Goma, M. Djetou, S. Malbranque, L. Boa Morte, S. Davis, M. Pembridge, B. Hayles. Substitutes: D. Beasant, Z. Rehman, J. Inamoto, F Sava, B McBride.
Today, as ten years ago, the fixture is important for both teams, but for very different reasons. City are looking to maintain their challenge for the title, whilst bottom of the table Fulham are hoping to build on their 1 – 0 win at the Cottage against Newcastle United last Saturday. Would I settle for a 0 – 0 today? Of course. But how realistic is that? Can the miracle of the ‘Great Escape’ of 2007/08 be repeated? WE STILL BELIEVE
The fact is that nothing was going to be decided today, in that win, lose or draw, Fulham would still be in a relegation battle. However, another battering in conceding five goals does nothing for the morale of the players or the fans.
However, when you are struggling, nothing goes your way and so it proved today. As expected City dominated the opening period of the first-half, but Fulham coped fairly comfortably. Then on twenty six minutes a long ball by James Milner saw Negredo get beyond the Fulham centre-back Amorebieta. As the defender stretched to reach the ball, there was contact with the City forward, who theatrically went down. After consulting with his assistant, referee Moss pointed to the spot and booked Amorebieta. Yaya Toure converted leaving Fulham feeling that the ‘big’ club tag of City had earned them a most dubious penalty. That was enough to give City the lead at the break, but how different would the game have been had it remained at 0 – 0? Would City have got frustrated and could Fulham have nicked a goal on the break? We’ll never know.
Into the second-half, the game was effectively over on fifty three minutes. This time even from the away section of the ground, there was no doubting the decision, as Amorebieta crudely brought Silva down. The Venezuelan defender was shown a red card and Yaya Toure did the rest from the penalty spot. Following this, Fulham reshuffled as Kacaniklic and Richardson were replaced by Roberts and Holtby. However, the substitutions were merely attempts at damage limitation.
Nonetheless, it didn’t stop Yaya Toure completing his hat-trick, as on sixty five minutes he was left with time and space to curl in a brilliant third goal for City. With the Manchester ‘derby’ on Tuesday, City manager Pellegrini looked to rest some of his players as Silva, Yaya Toure and Nasri were replaced as the game entered the last twenty minutes. City went in search of further goals and they came up with two more on eight four and eighty eight minutes. Fernandinho scored City’s fourth, after cutting into the box and firing home, with Demichelis getting his first goal – a tap-in – to complete the 5 – 0 rout.
The Manchester grey skies and the torrential rain that had been a persistent backdrop to this game made for a weary and draining exit for the Fulham faithful from the Etihad Stadium. The joy and the sunshine of the victory last week over Newcastle seemed a lifetime away. Thankfully results meant that the gap of four points to safety was unchanged and as Fulham boss still maintains, avoiding relegation is all about winning the home games. Everton visit Craven Cottage next Sunday, and anything less than a win surely means that Fulham’s thirteen years in the Premier League will be at an end.