Diomansy Kamara’s injury-time winner capped an astonishing Fulham comeback as Roy Hodgson’s men roared back from 2-0 down to stun Manchester City and dramatically increase their survival hopes.
The Londoners were heading out of the top flight when Sven Goran Eriksson’s side established a commanding first-half lead through a sensational curling strike from Stephen Ireland and Benjani’s cool close-range finish. Substitute Kamara conjured up a lifeline when he shot through Joe Hart legs with twenty minutes later and Danny Murphy equalised after Hart had saved his spot-kick. Incredibly, the Senegalese striker stole all three points in the last minute when he lashed high into the net after being sent clear by Murphy’s through ball.
Fulham had actually started well in rare Mancunian sunshine with Clint Dempsey denied by a sprawling stop from Hart and Bullard’s dipping effort from distance dropped wide. But, in the blink of an eye, they were behind as Ireland curled a majestic opener into the top corner from the edge of the box. It was two on 21 minutes when Benjani clinically turned in a Darius Vassell cross – and, with Birmingham and Bolton both winning, the writing looked on the wall.
Even when the visitors fashioned a chance they found Hart in fine form – as City’s goalkeeper clawed away a header from David Healy that looked destined for the corner. Hodgson sent on Kamara, a £6m summer signing from West Brom with just three league goals to his name before today, and his pace immediately unsettled Vedran Corluka. Kamara twisted and turned away from the Croatian after reaching a long ball and squeezed a shot between Hart’s legs.
Nine minutes later, Fulham were level. Sun Jihai hauled down Erik Nevland in the area and Murphy chose the worst possible moment to strike a feeble spot-kick, but was alert enough to tuck home the follow-up. A point wasn’t enough for Fulham and so they pushed forward. Bullard lashed over from long-range and Hart saved superbly from Clint Dempsey. But gaps were opening up at the other end and Kasey Keller made a magnificent stop to deny Martin Petrov after the Bulgarian’s mazy dribble and arguably bettered it moments later to keep out Benjani.
Fulham were still committed to all-out-attack. Davies, Bullard and Murphy worked the ball through central midfield before the latter’s incisive through ball sent Kamara scampering through in the inside left channel. This was Fulham’s first set of successive away wins since October 2003 – some 89 games ago. No wonder the celebrations were raucous in the away end.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2); Hart; Elano, Corluka, Ball, Jihai; Gelson, Johnson, Petrov, Ireland (Geovanni 56); Mwaruwari, Vassell (Caicedo 80). Subs (not used): Isaksson, Castillo, Logan.
GOALS: Ireland (10), Benjani (21).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Bullard, Murphy, Davies, Dempsey; McBride (Nevland 71), Healy (Kamara 64). Subs (not used): Warner, Bocanegra, Andreasen.
GOALS: Kamara (70, 90), Murphy (79).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirrall).