A last-gasp equaliser from Paulo Wanchope rescued a point for Manchester City as Kevin Keegan settled for a draw against one of his former employers this afternoon.
Fulham appeared to turned a pulsating contest completely on its head in the closing stages, having shaken off the disappointment of going behind just after half time when Nicolas Anelka’s shot went in off Zat Knight. Steed Malbranque’s well-taken equaliser was shrouded in controversy as City appealed for offside against the Frenchman in the build-up, but the visitors defence only had themselves to blame when a dreadful mistake from David Seaman gifted Louis Saha the simplest of chances to put Chris Coleman’s side ahead.
But the Londoners couldn’t cling on for another impressive victory. A hopeful, high punt into the box from Sun Jihai tempted Edwin van der Sar off his line. When the Dutchman didn’t make it, Wanchope was on hand to head home the leveller – and end his remarkable 21-month goal drought. It certainly spared Seaman’s blushes.
There was not much to chose between the teams in a tight first half. Wanchope should have broken the deadlock himself, but he contrived to miss the target entirely with a header from six yards after finding himself free at a corner. Luis Boa Morte spurned Fulham’s clearest opening, screwing wastefully wide after he had done brilliantly to turn Jihai inside out.
City went in front right at the start of the second half with Anelka afforded too much time and space twenty yards from the Fulham goal. The luckless Knight could do little about the wicked deflection that carried the ball past van der Sar, who then produced a brilliant save at full strength to prevent Shaun Wright-Phillips from doubling the away side’s advantage.
Fulham are nothing if not resilient under Coleman and they shrugged off this setback quickly. A lovely reverse ball from Moritz Volz unlocked the City defence, with Luis Boa Morte sprinting through on goal. Seaman could only palm the Portugese winger’s effort into the path of Malbranque – and, despite vociferous protests, the flag stayed down.
Seaman dashed off his line to prevent Boa Morte from putting Fulham in front minutes later but was soon caught out by another rapid counter attack. The genesis of the problem was further up field. Sylvin Distin was dreadfully lax in allowing Malbranque to seize control of David Sommeil’s square pass. The Frenchman set Saha away and the 40 year-old Seaman was never going to reach the loose ball first.
The joy was shortlived, however. Fulham couldn’t hold on for all three points as van der Sar’s uncharacteristic error meant they had to settle for just a share of the spoils.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar, Volz, Bonnissel, Goma, Knight; Legwinski, Inamoto, Clark; Malbranque, Boa Morte (Pembridge 84), Saha. Subs (not used): Crossley, Melville, Djetou, Sava.
BOOKED: Clark, Inamoto.
GOALS: Malbranque (73), Saha (79).
MANCHESTER CITY (3-5-2): Seaman; Distin, Sommeil, Jihai; Wright-Phillips (Bosvelt 77), McManaman (Fowler 85), Tiatto, Barton, Sinclair; Wanchope, Anelka (Sibierski 70). Subs (not used): Weaver, Dunne.
BOOKED: Wright-Phillips, Sommeil, Anelka, Jihai, Barton.
GOALS: Anelka (46), Wanchope (90).
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).