Manchester City had substitute Edin Dzeko to thank after the Bosnian’s late strike secured all three points against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
The Premier League champions spent much of the second half searching for a winner after Sergio Aguero had cancelled out Mladen Petric’s spot kick in the first half, and it was Dzeko’s goal in the 86th minute that ensured City left west London with their first away win of the season.
After a tetchy opening five minutes it was Manchester City who got the first real shot of the game away, with Yaya Toure snatching his effort wide after Steve Sidwell had gifted possession away in the middle of the park.
However it was Fulham who settled into the game quicker, and with Hugo Rodallega and John Arne Riise causing Pablo Zabaleta endless problems down the right flank, it came as no surprise that the home side's opening goal came after another burst in that area.
Riise, allowed to run at Zabaleta who enjoyed scant protection from David Silva in front of him, tumbled on the edge of the area, with referee Mark Halsey pointing to the spot despite replays suggesting a free-kick may have been the correct decision.
Petric stepped up and slammed the ball home past Joe Hart to lift the roof off Craven Cottage. At that point, the Cottagers were good value for their lead.
That goal appeared to wake the Premier League champions from their slumber however, and soon enough City’s talents in attack became apparent.
Silva, quiet in the opening twenty minutes, began finding space down the right hand side as well as drifting in field to kick-start his side, with Gareth Barry testing Schwarzer after the Spaniard left Riise dazed and confused down. A goal line scramble soon after had City players imploring Mark Halsey to give a goal, however replays showed that the man in yellow got the decision to not award it right.
There was an air of inevitability when the equalising goal came. Pace and movement was the key as Sergio Aguero benefited from some good work down the right, eventually tucking the ball home after Schwarzer had saved brilliantly from David Silva two minutes before half-time.
Fulham started brightly in the second half, with Damien Duff coming in to the game more, however the home side were pinned back into their own half as Silva led City’s increasingly frequent attempts to take the lead.
Roberto Mancini was once more out of his seat after 54 minutes as Sidwell and Zabaleta came together off the ball in the area, only for Halsey to wave play on.
Aguero came close to bagging his second of the game only to see his looping headed effort drift just wide of Schwarzer’s post in the 56th minute, with the Australian 'keeper seemingly losing sight of the ball in the process.
City’s onslaught continued, with Tevez trying to wriggle free and fire off his shot from a tight angle, before Schwarzer spilled the resulting corner into Vincent Kompany’s path, however the Belgian couldn't quite get his shot away before he was closed down and Schwarzer gathered at the second attempt.
Martin Jol attempted to stem the tide by sending young winger Alex Kacaniklic into the fray in place of Petric, with Hugo Rodallega moving to lead the line.
That didn’t change the pattern of the game, and soon after Yaya Toure was driving City forward and trying to get the goal his side desperately craved, but the Ivorian’s curled effort drifted over Schwarzer’s crossbar with twenty minutes to go.
Roared on by the vocal home crowd, Fulham’s first real foray forward in the second half came with 73 minutes on the clock. Bryan Ruiz, marginalised in the second half after a lively showing in the first 45, found himself in space on the edge of the City area some good work by Rodallega, and forced Hart into beating away his fierce shot.
That offered only brief respite for Fulham as City pushed forward once more, with Mancini throwing Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri into the mix in an attempt to find a winning goal.
Silva, dropping deeper and deeper to gather the ball and spring City’s attacks, forced Fulham to park the bus in order to protect the point. Balotelli cut a frustrated figure as his effort failed to test Schwarzer, while Yaya Toure couldn't find a match winner either.
City’s final roll of the dice came as Edin Dzeko entered the fray, and it was the Bosnian who finally scored the goal that secured all three points for the visitors after 86 minutes. Gael Clichy’s cross wasn't properly dealt with and Dzeko pounced, lashing the ball into the roof of the net to the relief of the sizeable travelling City contingent. Roberto Mancini, a frustrated figure for much of the game, let out a sizeable sigh of relief as his side secured a win that moved them up into 4th on twelve points, four back from leaders Chelsea.
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