Goalscorers: Stephen Ireland 10, Benjani 21, Diomansy Kamara 70, 90, Danny Murphy 79
Manchester City: Joe Hart, Michael Ball, Vedran Corluka, Sun Jihai, Gelson Fernandes, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland (Geovanni 56), Elano, Martin Petrov, Benjani, Darius Vassell (Felipe Caicedo 80)
Fulham: Kasey Keller, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, Paul Konchesky, Paul Stalteri, Jimmy Bullard, Simon Davies, Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey, David Healy (Diomansy Kamara 64), Brian McBride (Erik Nevland 71)
Referee: Mike Dean, Attendance: 44,504
Fulham arrived at Eastlands in April 2008 to play Manchester City in desperate need for a victory. Away form hadn’t been a speciality for the west Londoners. In fact, they hadn’t won back-to-back away games in the top-flight in over four years but having won a fortnight earlier at Reading, they could stop this unwanted sequence with a victory at The City of Manchester Stadium.
The Cottagers started brightly and had the first chance of the game on five minutes. Clint Dempsey was brilliant denied by Joe Hart and it was the start of a busy afternoon for the 21-year-old youngster. Hart had impressed many in his first full season in the Premier League. Moments later, Manchester City took the lead with their first serious attack of the match. Stephen Ireland produced a brilliant curling finish with his right foot into the top corner. It was an unstoppable strike.
Roy Hodgson’s side were five points adrift of safety before this match and defeat would condemn them to relegation. Despite being the better team, they fell 2-0 behind on 21 minutes. An injury crisis meant Elano had to play as an emergency right-back but the Brazilian still displayed his attacking instincts with a marvellous pass to play through Darius Vassell. Vassell unselfishly cut the ball back for his strike partner Benjani to score his third goal for the Citizens since his January arrival from Portsmouth.
Hart had to be at his best again before half-time to deny David Healy with a point-blank save from the Northern Irishman’s header. At the break though, Fulham’s fate looked like it was going to be sealed by 5.00pm. They needed a stunning turnaround in the scoreline in the second half. City looked to put the game beyond their opponents in the opening moments after the interval and American goalkeeper Kasey Keller had to make two saves to keep out both Vassell and Benjani.
Hope was restored for the travelling supporters with 20 minutes to go. Six minutes after his arrival for Healy from the bench, Diomansy Kamara twisted his way past Vedran Corluka before squeezing a shot in-between Hart’s legs. The youngster would have been disappointed to concede in this fashion but he responded well with a brilliant save to deny Jimmy Bullard from a free-kick.
Then with 11 minutes left, referee Mike Dean felt Sun Jihai had unfairly impeded Erik Nevland and awarded Fulham a penalty. Danny Murphy’s spot-kick was poor and Hart guessed right to save. Fortunately for the away side, the rebound fell straight back to Murphy who made no mistake second time round.
Both sides were now going for the winner and the turnaround was completed by Fulham in stoppage-time. Murphy produced an inch-perfect pass inside the defenders and Kamara raced clear, driving a clinical shot past Hart to complete an incredible fightback.
The 1,000 travelling support believed an escape from relegation was on and they were to be proven right. Victories in their last two games over Birmingham City and Portsmouth ensured Fulham’s Premier League survival but it was the comeback here that really started their end-of-season momentum.