The Ped Report Fulham 2-2 City
City let themselves and their supporters down a bit today at Craven Cottage. Sitting pretty and 2-0 to the good this should really have been a case of "how many". The reality of the matter was that maybe the players got to thinking that too and, as they have so many times against the Cottagers in recent season, they surrendered a comfortable position to hand out goals and points to the opposition.
The early signs were that City were not going to encounter any serious discomfort at Fulham. Movement was good, Silva service was resumed, and the Blues looked certain to maintain their winning start to the season. It was unsurprising therefore that a quality move involving Barry and the Master Magician ended with a slide rule pass to Aguero who in turn hit a slide rule pass into the net.
Fulham were clearly afraid to express anything and were probably seeking damage limitation, whereas City got into gear and into their flow. Schwarzer was kept busy and , as usual and not only against City, he made a couple of important saves to keep Fulham in the game.
Often you don`t see the value of a goalkeeper`s saves until the final whistle goes and that was indeed the case today.
By half time Fulham were still in the game which was a tribute to their efforts towards the end of the first half plus the netminder`s input, but immediately thereafter it looked like time up for the Cottagers. From the second half kick-off the ball was played back to Clichy. His superb cross field ball found Dzeko and his pinpoint header into the stride of Aguero saw the scoring genius strike an arrow which darted into the bottom corner.
And in fairness that should have been enough to send City to the top of the league for an hour or so. I would have expected the Blues to make a couple of early replacements and look for more goals. But the "home from Europe" slumber hit them rather than Fulham, who took it upon themselves to go for it.
I have said in almost every Ped Report this season that City will always offer up chances. It is down to opposition strikers to make sure they take them. Giving Zamora time and room on the edge of the box was suicidal and big Bobby made City pay by curling a neat shot around Hart. Kompany was guilty of letting him roam and Richards was to static and too slow to spot the danger. Zamora didn`t need a second invitation.
City struggled to reignite for a while, but could and should have still had enough to make the game safe, but, as we saw at home last season, Fulham is a side that does not lie down. Sometimes results do not go their way as they hadn`t so far to date this season, but they kept going, kept trying and finally made their own luck. Murphy`s 75th minute shot didn`t look particularly dangerous until it struck Kompany and diverted to the opposite bottom corner leaving Hart stranded, although he make a decent effort to try to get back across for it. Kompany had been muscled out in the build-up by Zamora.
The fact that both teams went in search of a winner was a tribute to their effort. City wanting three points to stay in touch with Stretford`s finest and Fulham needing to get away from the bottom of the table.
In the end they will have been happier than City in gaining a point against one of the best teams of the season so far. City will no doubt rue the fact that each of their matches in the Champions League will be followed by away matches and at the first attempt they in many ways failed to achieve what they wanted. Clearly there is going to have to be some emphasis on rotation and it will be up to those coming in to maintain the impetus and indeed show Mancini that they are worthy of the start.
In the end Fulham saw the value of the saves made by Schwarzer earlier in the match.
One or two players maybe need a wake up call, including Kompany whose work so far this season has been a bit thin. Although Barry and Yaya perhaps make City more fluid through the middle, I think we would have beaten Napoli and Fulham with de Jong patrolling across the middle of the park and extinguishing danger before it gets to the edge of the penalty area and therefore making life easier for Lescott and Kompany. The absence of de Jong and his cover tackling is, I guess, the main reason that Captain Kompany is looking more fragile at present.
I thought last week that the exclusion of Dzeko took some edge off his game against Napoli, but he still worked hard in both matches acting as the foil for Aguero, who really profits from having the big man around. Aguero has settled quickly into the Premier League and has shown an incredible appetite for goals. That said City still don`t go for the jugular when they have teams on the rack. That has to be next stage of the learning process. The substitutions were again a little late in arriving today, with most players therefore playing most of the match before Mancini delved into his bag of goodies.
No doubt players like Balotelli, Johnson, Savic, Tevez, maybe even Pantilimon and Kolo will get an outing against Birmingham, but I for one don`t want to see City waste the chance of silverware like they did last season. We know Arsenal will be the main serious contenders for the Carling Cup and that United and Chelsea will field second strings, as they look towards richer pickings. City`s "second string" should have more than enough to slide into the next round of a competition that offers a chance of a trophy in probably the fewest matches. And Arsenal don`t look like a serious threat to anything so far this season. They still seem to be hung over from last year`s Carling Cup final only this year minus their best two players!
We then move on to our annual debacle with Everton and a ghost that we really do need to exorcise. No doubt ET Moyes will spend much of the week bleating about how you can`t buy team spirit, how you can only buy mercenaries, oh and Lescott. But it begs the question "How do you know?" Moyes can`t afford to buy a bag of Everton Mints!! That said I would still prefer to play against them with de Jong in the team.
It is essential that City put this match behind them and look forward to the next challenges, of which there are three in quick succession. They need to rise from this and step onto the road to Wembley in the Carling Cup, put in a good hard shift against Everton then make sure they don`t leave the Allianz Arena empty-handed.