Whew…what a game. So many thoughts after this one. Could Fulham have actually pulled off a victory here? What if the defense hadn’t blown an offsides trap? What if the linesman had called offsides on that first goal? What if Bobby Zamora doesn’t fire a homing missile and give the Cottage some life? What if Fulham doesn’t take 15 seconds to get going in the second half? But in the end, after 5 Premier League matches, Fulham are officially the first club of the season to not lose to Manchester City. Roberto Mancini’s bunch is starting to come back to Earth, and although their club has an unbelievable knack for finding the back of the net, it still doesn’t seem like they have the mental capacity to chase a championship. They eased off the pedal after the second goal, and it allowed Fulham to push them to the brink. It was essential that Fulham brought their physical presence to the Cottage today, and they did just that. Unlike against Twente, they were disciplined but aggressive with their challenges, and it paid off.
Clint Dempsey – The physicality of Dempsey, who kept it up the entire match, rubbed off to his teammates and allowed them to hang with the likes of Yaya Toure, Micah Richards, and Vincent Kompany. Dempsey was essential today in the buildups, and he provided the necessary spark to get his team going. I don’t think Dempsey’s captain material, so take this the wrong way when I say this, but if you ONLY look at today’s game, Dempsey played like a captain.
Mark Schwarzer – After an unimpressive open to the season for the goalkeeper, Schwarzer has had a good few games. And today was no different. He saved an absolute cracker from Dzeko to his left, and in a season where the Fulham attack has played against the best goalie that given week, Schwarzer matched his opponent. He weathered barrage after barrage from Man City.
Moussa Dembele – On because of an injury to AJ and Ruiz looked a bit sluggish in his debut, Moussa was essential to starting many of the Fulham buildups. As one Twitter follower put it, he was the “catalyst to the second half” and I couldn’t agree more. He has the ability to turn on the afterburners like few players have. And he took a ROCKET of a shot that was saved by the on form Joe Hart, and seeing him take shots like that is very good. His confidence is quickly returning, and a confident Dembele is a dangerous one. He played real well.
The entire midfield – Danny Murphy, Steve Sidwell, Dempsey, and Dembele brought their A game today. I know it’s getting a bit old, but their physical presence and ability to never back down from a challenge was of monumental importance. Even when at times Sidwell seemed off in the attacking third, and Danny Murphy was nonexistent for stretches, they held their own, and didn’t allow Man City a free pass to their attacking third. That was huge.
Stephen Kelly and John Arne Riise – First off, how valuable is Riise on those throw ins from the attacking third? They’re almost like corners! Having a guy who’s able to rocket the ball into the box with his arms is huge. Now into the good part. Both wide defenders were stellar today. The physicality I’ve already talked about. But both of them didn’t let anything past them. The middle was a bit sketchy again, but these guys brought it today. Just a very well played match on the edges.
Why even bother with this section? Nobody was really that bad to put in here. I’ll go with that silly offsides trap that allowed City’s first goal, but otherwise I was very very happy with the play today.
Man of the Match: Wow, lots to pick from here. Schwarzer, Dempsey, Zamora, Murphy, Dembele all very deserving. It’s a very tough choice. However, I’m going with Mark Schwarzer. Without him, Fulham has no shot going into halftime. Without him, the rally never has a chance. Who’s your man of the match?
Hats off to: Sergio Aguero, first of all, for his brace. The guy hasn’t missed a BEAT since coming from La Liga. What a fun player to watch. Second of all, Joe Hart. How many times is Fulham going to face the goalkeeper of the week? It’s agonizing. But he did a great job. The header saves are the most impressive. No time to react.
Overall, it’s a weird feeling to be happy with a 2-2 draw at home to stay at the bottom of the table. But number 1, it’s still very, very early in the season. Remember, Fulham were in the relegation zone in December last season, and finished 10th. Number 2, the team they played was 2 up, and was one of the best teams form-wise in all of Europe. And finally, be happy Fulham could finish today. Scoring 2 goals is excellent. Once we were 2 down, I had such an awful feeling knowing that Fulham AGAIN was going to play a pretty good game and get clean-sheeted. But they put 2 past. Zamora’s goal was an absolute beauty. Couldn’t have placed it better.
Final note: could Fulham be catching Chelsea at a better time? Reeling from their defeat to Manchester United, with Fulham coming off this absolute confidence booster (which they DESPERATELY needed) and maybe climbing their form back? Who knows, we will see. Chelsea’s a little banged up too.