Sep 29 2012 By Yann Tear
Fulham 1-2 Manchester City
FULHAM made life difficult for the champions at Craven Cottage – defiantly shutting out Roberto Mancini's men for most of the match, although largely starved of the ball.
But sub Edin Dzeko ruined their afternoon with a goal seconds after coming on, with the final whistle three minutes away.
Gael Clichy's cross from the left was flicked on by the head of Mario Balotelli – another City sub – and John Arne Riise's attemped clearing header cannoned off Brede Hangeland into Dzeko's path. With one swift turn, the ball was in the roof of the net.
Martin Jol's men - who last season also gave City a real fight in a 2-2 draw - could hardly have made a better start, Mladen Petric (pictured) slotting home a 10th minute penalty. But Sergio Aguero equalised just before the break after some patient probing.
Fulham's penalty came after a trip by Pablo Zabaleta on Riise was deemed to have been made inside the area. It was a borderline decision for ref Mark Halsey to make, and City protested he had got it wrong.
The goal encouraged Fulham to believe they could once again upset Roberto Mancini's men and they kept up a good tempo in the first half as they pressed and harried City's star names all over the pitch.
Another feature was players tracking back well to further disrupt City attacks - Hugo Rodallega being particularly fastidious in his defensive duties.
Although the champions monopolised the ball, they found it hard to find a telling chink in the Fulham armour.
The Whites got lucky when one low Zabaleta cross was almost turned into his own net by Aaron Hughes, only for Schwarzer to recover on the line. But their luck ran out two minutes before the break.
Aguero was on hand to tap in from close range after a Carlos Tevez strike from distance took a deflection off David Silva that left Mark Schwarzer with time only to stick out a hand to palm it towards the waiting Argentinian.
The home side were often under the cosh, but still fashioned a few lightening raids. Petric skied over after a clever one-two with Rodallega and Riise chanced his arm with a spectacular low free-kick from 40 yards that had Joe Hart scrambling.
There was not much change to the pattern of the game after the break, with City looking for weaknesses and Fulham repelling well and hitting on the break. Bryan Ruiz went close with a stinging shot at Hart in one of those raids and the prospect of a home win was never totally far-fetched.
But City were eventually rewarded for their patience, with Mancini's subs prominent in stealing the points in the closing minutes.
Line-up: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Ruiz, Sidwell, Baird (Karagounis 81), Duff; Petric Kacaniklic (66), Rodallega. Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Briggs, Smith.