City held up by Coleman's wall

Manchester City 0 Fulham 0
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The Independent Football

Fulham's determination not to lose effectively nullified Manchester City's anxious efforts to win as the vast home contingent at the City of Manchester Stadium suffered 90 minutes of frustration. In the absence of manager Kevin Keegan, recuperating at home after treatment for a back problem, a patchy display by the home team hardly deserved victory in the face of a disciplined performance from the London side. But City will feel referee Jeff Winter did their survival cause no favours when he failed to award what looked like a clear penalty against defender Alain Goma midway through the second half.

Fulham's determination not to lose effectively nullified Manchester City's anxious efforts to win as the vast home contingent at the City of Manchester Stadium suffered 90 minutes of frustration. In the absence of manager Kevin Keegan, recuperating at home after treatment for a back problem, a patchy display by the home team hardly deserved victory in the face of a disciplined performance from the London side. But City will feel referee Jeff Winter did their survival cause no favours when he failed to award what looked like a clear penalty against defender Alain Goma midway through the second half.

They could also highlight the two saves Edwin van der Sar made from Paulo Wanchope and Jon Macken in the frantic final stages as evidence of some measure of superiority but there was no breaking down the solid defensive barrier Fulham maintained throughout. Chris Coleman's team, having themselves seen Sylvain Distin given the benefit of the doubt against Luis Boa Morte's late penalty appeal, would have left feeling mugged had City stolen the points.

Television replays suggested both claims were fully justified, leading Coleman to revisit the argument for a second "referee" in the stands, with a video replay available, to support the officials on the field.

"I've seen both incidents and I feel Jeff probably evened it up in the end but referees have big decisions to make with a lot at stake so they need to get it right," Coleman said.

"I think it is time for a video playback to be used. It would only take 60 seconds and it would sort it out so there is no argument."

Fulham's defensive approach drew City's sting yesterday. Van der Sar dived full length to his left to grab hold of a Robbie Fowler header in an early City attack and it took a strong tackle by Carlos Bocanegra to deny Nicolas Anelka a chance after Antoine Sibierski, a bright influence for City, had floated the ball cleverly over the top.

Fulham's shape and discipline served them well, no matter that they created barely more than one chance in each half. David James presented the first, spilling the ball under a challenge from Hayles, and luck favoured the goalkeeper when Steed Malbranque's shot struck his body and ran to safety.

The home side's football deteriorated in the second half to the extent that Arthur Cox, standing in for Keegan, replaced Anelka and Fowler with Paulo Wanchope and Jon Macken.

It was Macken who went down, seemingly tripped by Goma, but Cox conceded that City had not done enough: "I can see why people thought it should have been a penalty but it was not given and we didn't have enough quality in the final third to say we should have won," he said.

Fulham might have done, conspiring to produce the best move of the game and almost a goal when Sean Davis linked with Malbranque and Hayles before stretching James. But Coleman declared himself well pleased with a point and graciously predicted that City would survive. As yet, however, it would be unwise to stake the mortgage on it.

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