Dirk Lehmann must love Craven Cottage. The German forward followed up his first Fulham goal on Tuesday with a brilliant brace as Kevin Keegan’s side shocked Second Division promotion favourites Manchester City in front of the television cameras tonight.
Keegan hailed this dominant display as the finest he had witnessed since arriving in SW6 as Mohamed Al-Fayed’s new chief operating officer last September. The Londoners punctured any early season optimism that Joe Royle’s side had generated with wins over Blackpool and Notts County with a flowing display of football that saw City completely overwhelmed by the banks of the Thames.
Royle’s only mitigation would have come in the shape of a serious knee injury that forced Georgian international Khakaber Tskhadadze off the field after twelve minutes, but the furious City boss wasn’t making any excuses after his side were eased aside by a combination of Lehmann’s power and the enduring trickery of the German’s veteran striker partner, Beardsley. The pair linked up brilliantly to put Fulham in front midway through the first half. Lehmann leapt unopposed to flick a high ball into Beardsley’s path and the former England international punished Tony Vaughan for allowing him to advance in the penalty area by firing a low shot past Nicky Weaver.
Lehmann doubled the lead twelve minutes later. Beardsley teed up Steve Hayward for a speculative shot from a free-kick and the livewire striker forced a fine save from Weaver as he diverted the midfielder’s effort goalwards. The German showed his predatory instincts by forcing the rebound in on the stretch with the keeper still grounded as City’s defenders simply stood and watched. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors six minutes later when Craven Cottage’s new cult hero headed home a well-worked short corner routine that saw John Salako supply the perfect cross.
City were better in the second half but the game was long beyond them. Fulham were so comfortable that Keegan withdrew Lehmann to a rapturous reception midway through the second period, despite the forward being on a hat-trick. The Hammersmith End delighted in singing songs of ridicule to Oasis pair Noel and Liam Gallagher, who couldn’t contain their displeasure whilst watching from one of the corporate boxes, and were escorted out early. For both them and Royle, it was certainly a case of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Morgan, Brevett, Symons, Coleman; Bracewell, Hayward, W. Collins, Salako (Uhlenbeek 75); Lehmann (Moody 67), Beardsley. Subs (not used): Neilson.
BOOKED: Morgan, Bracewell.
GOALS: Beardsley (21), Lehmann (33, 39).
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Weaver; Edghill, Vaughan, Tskhadadze (Allsopp 12), Wiekens; Pollock, Horlock, Mason, Jim Whitley; Dickov, Goater. Subs (not used): Jeff Whitley, Wright.
REFEREE: Mick Fletcher (Worcestershire).