Fulham 3 Manchester City 3: Murphy the great leveller for Fulham in exciting joy of six

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The Independent Football

By the time this thriller by the river had finished, the sun had dropped below the tree line but there was still a warm glow from seeing six goals. Manchester City equalised twice and then took the lead before the hosts finally ended up level thanks to Danny Murphy. If only it had been like this the last time these two managers met.

That was when Sven-Goran Eriksson was still in charge of an England side that lost 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Belfast against Lawrie Sanchez's Northern Ireland. Clearly club management suits these two very different personalities better.

The leadership of the Premier League had been within Manchester City's scope at the start of the day, although that was before Arsenal's destruction of Derby. Nevertheless, second place, which they were removed from by Liverpool, was still in their sights, a draw being sufficient to tuck them in behind the Gunners. Whether they are second or third, it is a start to the season that has left City's fans both incredulous and ecstatic.

Not that they would have been happy with the way their team started in south-west London, as the hosts stretched City's back four, with the pace of Hameur Bouazza on the left and Simon Davies on the opposite flank, unsettling Richard Dunne and Micah Richards,which has not often been the case this season.

Fulham have issues at the other end of the table, and due to Reading's win dropped one place nearer the relegation zone. The Cottagers have no problem scoring goals but keeping them out has been harder and they had won only once this season, before City's visit.

The last meeting between these sides, in April, turned out to be a 3-1 win for City, as they finally scraped their way away from relegation trouble, while it was Chris Coleman who suffered the drop. It proved to be the Welshman's last game in charge of Fulham, as he was replaced by Lawrie Sanchez.

Yet things were looking brighter than in the spring, when Fulham took the lead after 13 minutes. Breaking out from near their own penalty area, Steven Davis found Clint Dempsey, who in turn fed Bouazza. His speed took him to the touchline and he delivered the perfect near- post cross for Davies, whose header past Kaspar Schmeichel was his first goal of the season.

By way of response, there was not much from Eriksson's men, until nine minutes before the interval. Michael Johnson found Martin Petrov in plenty of space and the Bulgarian was allowed to cut in far too easily by Chris Baird, although there was a slight element of luck as his shot beat Antti Niemi with a deflection.

The shock of conceding that goal to City was heightened by the fact that it was their first serious attempt on goal. Such a weakness has hampered Fulham so far this season and it showed no sign of going away after the interval.

It was at the break that Sanchez brought on Diomansy Kamara for Davies and the change had an instant, positive effect, just three minutes into the second half. The Senegal striker was brought down just outside the area by Dunne and in the set-piece Kamara ran over the ball before Bouazza struck a hard, curling shot past Kaspar Schmeichel.

Fulham could only celebrate for two minutes. A long, high ball to Emile Mpenza was knocked down by the Belgian striker to Petrov, whose shot was parried and Mpenza tapped in the rebound from two yards.

Ten minutes later City were in the lead thanks to a well-worked move between Petrov and Elano. The Brazilian international chipped his return pass into Petrov's path and he found the tiny gap between Niemi and his near post.

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