Manchester City 2 Fulham 1 (AET)

Carling Cup Round 3
Wednesday 23 September 2009, 20:00 KO

City: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Touré (c), Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Ireland (Petrov 75), Barry, de Jong (Weiss 91), Bellamy, Tevez
Unused: Taylor, Sylvinho, Vidal, Garrido, Ball
Goals: Barry (51), Touré (110)

Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy

After a potential banana skin away to Crystal Palace, City faced another potential banana skin at home to Fulham. But, while the visitors made 11 changes to last weekend’s team, Mark Hughes showed how seriously he’s taking this competition, naming his strongest available squad.

Despite City’s side being strong, Fulham worked hard from the off and the game took a very long time to get going. The first two chances fell to City, with Gareth Barry heading directly at the keeper and Wright-Phillips firing high and wide from range, after a good run.

De Jong then couldn’t get a good connection on a Gareth Barry corner, heading down, but wide, before Wright-Phillips went on a jinking run, but his final pass towards Tevez was intercepted.

And while Shay Given was a pure spectator for most of the first half, he had no chance when Zoltan Gera fired Fulham into the lead. It was the visitors’ first shot of the game and it was a sublime volley from range.

While the first half petered out with City behind, the home side pulled level shortly after the break. Craig Bellamy worked hard to win a left wing corner and then the striker found Gareth Barry from the resulting kick, who nodded the ball into the empty net when David Stockdale came and missed.

City continued to press and, after some neat football on the edge of the box, Craig Bellamy put too much on a curling effort and it finished up over the bar.

With 20 minutes to go, Gareth Barry tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but his sidefoot placed shot from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar for a corner.

Fulham’s second shot of the game nearly resulted in them re-taking the lead. Ceol Ki Hyeon volley the ball down onto the ground and Given was alert to make an excellent save, conceding a corner.

But despite their possession, City couldn’t avoid extra time. Zabaleta fired a shot over the bar, before Shaun Wright-Phillips beat three men on one of his trademark runs and was stopped with a cynical foul by Kelly.

Bellamy fired a shot over the bar, after he was sent through by Lescott. But there were two defenders in tow, who did enough to make it a difficult half-volley. Weiss then fired over, after a neat little move between him and Tevez.

Bellamy then forced an excellent save from Stockdale and Tevez missed what looked to be the best chance of the game – heading the rebound over, with most of the goal to aim at.

With just under 15 minutes to go, Bridge misplaced a pass to the middle and nearly let Fulham in, but Lescott was on hand to make the saving challenge. But then Lescott was left for dead in the box, and Bjorn Riise scared Shay Given with a curling effort, but it flashed just wide.

But with ten minutes until penalties, Kolo Touré was left unmarked at a corner and Martin Petrov planted the ball on his head. The skipper headed the ball into the net off the bar, giving City a much deserved lead.

City made sure of their place in the Carling Cup Fourth round by seeing the game out with possession football and tight defending from the few Fulham set pieces. The home side looked like they were hungover from their hard work at the weekend. It might not have been pretty, but it was a victory and much deserved.

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