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Fulham 1-2 Man City Prem06 1213 The Sun

last updated Monday 01st October 2012, 10:02 AM

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Mark Irwin at SunSport

Fulham (1) 1 Man City(1) 2

Roberto Mancini reckons it is a right old headache having to leave so many superstars out of his starting line-up.

But the Manchester City boss is not going to get too much sympathy from his fellow managers when he can send on £75million-worth of substitutes to save the day.

Edin Dzeko was Mancini's £27m last roll of the dice as the desperate champions battered away at Fulham's stubborn defence.

They had already sent on Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri as they struggled to keep in touch with early league leaders Chelsea and end a run of four games without a win.

But it was only with the introduction of Bosnian international Dzeko that City finally made the breakthrough to back up Mancini's bold pre-match assertion that his team will retain the title.

Dzeko had been on the pitch for just 60 seconds when John Arne Riise made a mess of his attempt to clear Gael Clichy's 87th-minute cross on the run.

Riise's hasty header across his own six-yard box ricocheted off Brede Hangeland and dropped invitingly for Dzeko.

He turned with his first touch of the game and then lashed his second into the back of the net.

It was no more than City deserved after a second half of total domination.

And credit Mancini for going for broke when most visiting bosses would have settled for a point.

MAN CITY boss says Fulham should not have scored but is happy with the way his side fought back to win He said: "We wouldn't have deserved anything but a win today because we played a very good game and we could have scored two or three more.

We've been very unlucky in the last three or four weeks when we also deserved to win.

"Today was difficult when we were 1-0 down to a penalty that wasn't.

"But the guys stayed very calm, continued to play football and when you have as many good players as we do, there is always a chance you will score.

"Every week it's difficult for me to name my team.

"It's always a tough decision to leave out some of the strikers but the season will be long and we have another important game against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

"The important thing today was to stay close to Chelsea and we have done that.

" For the first 30 minutes City looked like anything but reigning Premier League champions as they allowed Fulham to take control and seize the initiative.

With Pablo Zabaleta struggling and David Silva failing to provide any defensive cover for the Argentine full-back, City always looked vulnerable down the right.

And the Cottagers took full advantage of their visitors' frailties when they were awarded a contentious 10th-minute penalty.

Zabaleta missed with an attempted tackle on Riise but then put his arm across the Norwegian's chest as he tried to regain his momentum on the edge of the area.

Contact was minimal at best, yet the Fulham full-back went down theatrically enough to convince referee Mark Halsey, who awarded an equally debatable spot-kick to Manchester United at Liverpool last weekend.

City naturally contested the decision but the delay had no effect on Mladen Petric, who sent Joe Hart the wrong way to keep the England keeper still waiting for his first clean sheet of the season.

Riise tested Hart with a long-range free-kick and Petric wasted another good opportunity as Fulham looked to capitalise on City's defensive problems.

But Mancini's millionaires gradually pulled themselves together and deservedly levelled two minutes before half-time with Sergio Aguero's first goal since last season's stoppage-time title-winner against QPR.

The Argy superstar had already squandered one opportunity to level when he headed wide from Silva's deep cross.

And countryman Carlos Tevez was far from happy when he was denied a penalty after he was pulled back by Riise.

Zabaleta's low cross was deflected towards his own goal by Aaron Hughes but smothered right on the goalline by keeper Mark Schwarzer as City's frustrated forwards kept pressing for parity.

City's reward finally arrived in the 43rd minute when Aguero pounced on the loose ball after Schwarzer's magnificent reaction save to deny Silva.

It was the signal for Fulham to drop deeper and deeper into their own territory as they went into damage limitation mode and tried to protect their point.

The second half was played almost exclusively inside the home side's half as Aguero headed narrowly wide and Balotelli came on to curl one just past Schwarzer's post.

Fulham had one brief opportunity to lift the siege when Bryan Ruiz's powerful 73rd-minute effort was beaten to safety by Hart.

But there was an air of inevitably about City's winning goal and even Fulham boss Martin Jol could not complain about the final result.

The big Dutchman said: "It wasn't our intention to sit back in the second half but they were too good for us.

"You could see we were tired after 60 minutes.

"They totally dominated possession and after the first hour all we did was defend.

"Manchester City were stronger than us and more eager to score.

"We can't complain because they are a world-class team.

"But when you get to 87 minutes and it's still 1-1 you have a sly hope that you can defend against them to the end and maybe catch them on the break.

"The frustrating thing is that although they dominated possession, both of their goals were disappointing from our point of view.

"Riise will be disappointed with their winner.

"I would have hit it with my right foot rather than try to head it.

It was a bad clearance."


FULHAM: Schwarzer 7, Riether 6, Hughes 6, Hangeland 6, Riise 6, Baird 7 (Karagounis 3), Sidwell 6, Duff 6, Ruiz 7, Petric 8 (Kacaniklic 5), Rodallega 7.
Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Briggs, Smith.

MAN CITY: Hart 7, Zabaleta 5, Kompany 7, Nastasic 6, Clichy 6, Javi Garcia 6 (Dzeko 8), Barry 6 (Nasri 5), Silva 8, Y Toure 7, Aguero 8, Tevez 7 (Balotelli 5).
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Kolarov.

Booked: Kompany.

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