Touré's leap proves timely for Hughes
Manchester City 2 Fulham 1 (After extra time; score at 90 min 1-1)
Thursday 24 September 2009
It had been the six minutes of added time that had so infuriated City in the Manchester derby, and three days later, they were forced into another 30 minutes of unwelcome overtime.
Here, they endured, although but for Kolo Touré's header that rebounded in off the underside of the crossbar, they would have been forced into a penalty shoot-out and, but for Shay Given's goalkeeping, Manchester City might not have reached the fourth round at all.
On Sunday at Old Trafford they had lost as gloriously as it is possible to lose in sport, but last night was rather more laboured and easily the most disjointed performance Mark Hughes' side has delivered this season. It was not much of a way to mark the first anniversary of Sheikh Mansour's formal takeover of the club.
And yet it was not because of any lack of respect for the League Cup. This was the last trophy City won and, as the banner on the Stretford End of Old Trafford delights in pointing out, it was won as long ago as 1976 – and in recent seasons they have been humiliated in the competition at Doncaster, Chesterfield and Brighton.
Hughes is in the market for a trophy of whatever description and he named a virtually full-strength side on an evening when the club was selling tickets for a fiver. The combination deserved a better reward but a young, highly determined Fulham side had other ideas. This was a completely changed team from the one that had lost at Wolves on Sunday but, if they were supposed to go down with as much dignity as possible, it was a brief Fulham never looked like being willing to fulfil. "I thought they were magnificent," their manager, Roy Hodgson, remarked.
There was a time, in the seasons when Ferenc Puskas and Florian Albert dominated the European game, that "Hungarian" was a byword for magic. Zoltan Gera may not belong in that pantheon of talent but his volley from 30 yards did. There was nobody near him and no obvious danger to Given's goal when he swung his right foot, but the shot was unstoppable.
As misplaced pass followed mis-kick, frustration began to eat into Hughes' players, although given the week Craig Bellamy has had, he remarkably appeared among the most composed. When the teams were announced, the Welshman was greeted with the biggest cheer of the evening; proof that at Eastlands physically confronting a Manchester United fan is not considered a crime.
It was his corner, seven minutes after the restart, that Gareth Barry rose to meet, so moving the scoreboard closer to what even those 60-odd fans who had travelled from London – and who were matched by the number of stewards assigned to supervise them – might have expected upon kick-off.
Manchester City (4-3-3) Given; Zabaleta, Touré, Lescott, Bridge; Ireland (Petrov, 76), De Jong ( Weiss, 90), Barry; Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Garrido, Sylvinho, Vidal, Ball.
Fulham (4-4-2) Stockdale; Stoor, Smalling, Baird, Kelly; Davies (Dikagasoi, 71), Greening, Riise, Gera ( Anderson, 119); Johnson ( Elm, 90), Ceol. Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Watts, Saunders, Smith.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
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