Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 12 April 2009, 16:10 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Garrido, Zabaleta, de Jong, Ireland, Petrov (Robinho 63), Etuhu (Sturridge 63), Bojinov (Evans 55)
Unused: Hart, Elano, Gelson, McGivern
Goals: Ireland (27)
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
City had hoped to get back to form after their defeat in Germany, and a flat atmosphere in the City of Manchester Stadium echoed a flat match. It was looking good for the home side, who struggled to get out of second gear, but silly mistakes, once again, cost them.
The first real action saw Bobby Zamora flash a shot at Shay Given, after Dunne misjudged the bounce of a high ball, before slipping in attempting to clear it. Fortunately for City, Given was able to divert the shot over the bar.
And with City’s first meaningful attack of the game came the first goal of the game. Bojinov held the ball up on the halfway line, before finding Stephen Ireland breaking forward. He carried it all the way to the edge of the box and, when it looked like he’d held it for too long, unleashed an effort on goal. And, with the help of a slight deflection, it looped over Schwartzer and gave City the lead.
Minutes later, Bojinov shot wide after a Fulham defensive slip up, when Zabaleta was perhaps the better option, unmarked on the right.
The game petered to half time with neither side really able to forge another chance, City happy despite the not-so-great performance, with victory being the most important thing.
And the second half couldn’t have started worse for the home side and for Zabaleta. The Argentinian gave the ball away inside his own half, with the ricochet falling to Zamora. Richards got in a last-gasp tackle, but it fell to Dempsy who slotted the ball past Given.
City weren’t able to recover and, just ten minutes later, they were a goal down. Konchesky crossed the ball into the box and it was only half cleared. Former City player Dickson Etuhu collected the ball and volleyed in his first Fulham goal.
Robinho replaced Petrov, who was given a standing ovation from the home fans after his long spell out injured, and he immediately could have got City back on terms. He was sent through on a one-on-one, but couldn’t finish, as Schwartzer made a meal of a simple save.
Fulham should have made it 1-3, when Given flapped at a free kick and palmed it onto the back of a visiting player. Hangeland, though, could only head over the bar.
But it didn’t matter for them as, with just five minutes to go, Dunne gambled on the through ball and missed the tackle on Zamora. The forward then ran at goal, drew Onuoha out before finding Dempsey, who slid the ball into the goal.
It was the end of the game for City, no matter what they tried. They could have grabbed a late goal to make it more interesting, but Schwartzer was able to pull off a good save to deny Evans with a header.
A bad Easter weekend for City, who need to go all guns blazing against Hamburg in the week to make sure that the season doesn’t peter over the finish line. City will need to improve on today’s performance if they are going to make it to the UEFA Cup Semi Finals.