1-0 (Ireland 10), 2-0 (Benjani 21)
2-1 (Kamara 69), Murphy (78), Kamara (90)
- Match reports
- Sat 26 Apr 2008, 12:00AM
- Posted by Tim Oscroft
Pre match: Richard Dunne had failed to recover from the muscle injury he picked up against Portsmouth, so Jihai Sun returned to the defence at left back while Ball moved into the middle, with Elano continuing at right back. Shaleum Logan, back from his loan at Stockport, was on the bench for the first time at Premier League level.
Michael Ball took the captain’s armband in Richard Dunne’s absence, a nice moment for the affable Scouser.
The run-up to kick off saw the stadium cheering on United’s defeat at Stamford Bridge, then acclaiming the Under 18 side as they paraded the FA Youth Cup on a lap of honour, City chairman Dr Thaksin Shinawatra having presented the trophy to captain Ben Mee.
Fulham had the first good chance of the game after six minutes, and City had Joe Hart to thank for keeping the game at 0-0. Davies’ cross was met with a sweet volley from Dempsey, and City’s keeper made a superb save low to his left to push the ball wide of the post.
But we did not have to wait too long for a goal, and when it came it was something special. Petrov took advantage when Stalteri dithered on the edge of his own area, he then backheeled to Stephen Ireland who curled a wonderful shot beyond the despairing Keller into the top left hand corner.
It could have been even worse for Fulham on 14 minutes when Keller slipped on the edge of the area, but Benjani could not drag the ball back from the byline with the American stranded.
Bullard forced Hart into another save with a low, long range shot, and Vassell could not quite get on top of a Petrov cross, then on 21 minutes the former Villa man set up City’s second goal.
Elano fed Vassell on the right, the ball was pulled back into the box to Benjani who made no mistake from around 10 yards out – and this time the Zimbabwean treated the City fans to his trademarked finger-pointing goal celebration!
Dempsey went into the book for elbowing Elano in the face, the Brazilian staying down for several minutes for treatment before carrying on. The playmaker-turned-right back was enjoying his new role, spraying passes across to Petrov, who was just short of putting Ireland in again on the half hour.
Hart was to the rescue again on 35 minutes, the England Under 21 making a wonderful one-handed save from David Healy’s point-blank range header.
Petrov was just inches away in stoppage time, Keller plucking a through ball off the top of the Bulgarian’s head on the very edge of the box.
Vassell went close just two minutes into the second half, Keller doing well to push the striker’s shot from a tight angle away from danger. A minute later the American stopper made another good save, blocking Benjani after he had found space on the edge of the six yard box.
The game went quiet, livening up when Geovanni replaced Ireland on 56 minutes, the Brazilian still a folk hero after his derby-winning exploits back in August. Just afterwards, Benjani rose to meet a Petrov corner but his header flew a long way over the bar.
It was all City now, with Petrov shooting wide on the hour mark when a pass to Vassell would surely have brought goal number three.
Fulham had hardly got out of first gear, but Bullard had a chance on 63 minutes, whipping a free kick just past Hart’s left hand post.
And the visitors threw themselves a Premier League lifeline on 69 minutes, Diomansy Kamara eluding Corluka to drive home a low shot off Hart’s right ankle, the visiting fans finally having something to cheer after looking resigned to their fate.
They came close to levelling the game two minutes later, Joe Hart pulling off another great save, this time diving to his right to push a Bullard free kick away. A game that City should have been winning with ease looked to be in the balance.
The plucky west London side then drew level in dramatic circumstances. Jihai Sun was adjudged to have pulled down Nevland in the area, Danny Murphy stepped up and saw Joe Hart save the spot kick low to his right – only for the ball to rebound back to Murphy, who drove the ball in to make it 2-2 with 12 minutes to go!
Both sets of fans were stunned, and three minutes later Bullard’s rasping drive was just fractionally wide of Hart’s left post. The City stopper was called on again seconds later, flying to his right to save a Dempsey header.
Then City nearly retook the lead, Geovanni finding the side netting with half of the ground thinking he had scored. With three minutes to go Elano crossed all the way over to Petrov, whose volley flew wide. Seconds later, Benjani and Caicedo were unable to combine when a goal seemed certain, and then the Ecuadorian shot wide after finding space in the area.
The drama was still not over, Petrov going on a great run before shooting, only to see Keller make a great save with the rebound fortunately not falling to anyone.
And in the dying seconds Fulham completed an amazing comeback, Diomansy Kamara breaking into the box and drilling the ball past Hart to the astonishment of everyone in the ground. There was barely time to restart, the away fans acclaimed their side and City’s supporters could only scratch their heads at what they had just seen.