Injury-hit Fulham settled for a clean sheet at relegation-threatened Manchester City in a dire game at Eastlands this afternoon.
Chris Coleman’s side, who were hit by four withdrawals in the 48 hours before kick off, battled hard to claim a point as Manchester City pushed for the win that would have eased their relegation fears. City created the real of the first period when Robbie Fowler headed Antoine Sibierski’s dangerous cross straight at Edwin van der Sar. Fulham struggled to fashion openings of their own and were reliant on another superb display from van der Sar to earn them a point.
The Dutch international goalkeeper turned Paulo Wanchope’s low drive around the post and denied Jon Mackin a late winner as City’s anxiety about the drop grows. They had the better of the contest throughout but couldn’t find a cutting edge in the final third – with boss Kevin Keegan absent recovering following a cortisone injection in his back. That might have been less painful than watching this turgid contest on reflection.
City’s main threat after the break was the lively running of winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, who stood a fabulous cross up to the far post after a jinking run but Nicolas Anelka narrowly failed to connect with it. Macken and Wanchope was introduced off the bench to try and enliven the home attack – and it almost paid immediate dividends. Michael Tarnat picked out Macken with a lofted through ball and the striker drew a challenge from Alain Goma before going down in the box, but referee Jeff Winter waved away the home penalty shouts.
The referee then turned a blind eye to Fulham’s own penalty appeal with ten minutes to go as Boa Morte looked to be felled by Sylvain Distin and City continued to pour forward in search of a late winner. van der Sar saved from Wanchope and Macken in quick succession, but Fulham almost made the breakthrough at the other end in stoppage time. David James let Sean Davis’ shot slip out of his grasp and had to push the rebound away from Steed Malbranque as the Frenchman closed in.
It would have been the textbook example of a smash and grab raid but a depleted Fulham side appeared pleased with a point, especially when Macken managed to head wide of the post from Wright-Phillips pinpoint cross with the last significant chance of the match.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): James; Jihai, Tarnat, Dunne, Distin; Bosvelt, Reyna, Sibierski (Sinclair 80), Wright-Phillips; Anelka (Wanchope 64), Fowler (Macken 64). Subs (not used): Arason, Barton.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Goma; Djetou, Pembridge, Davis; Malbranque, Boa Morte, Hayles (McBride 70). Subs (not used): Beasant, Rehman, Inamoto, Sava.
REFEREE: Jeff Winter (Cleveland).