Premier League - City spurn two-goal lead at Fulham
Manchester City threw away a two-goal lead to drop their first points of the season in an entertaining 2-2 Premier League draw with a spirited Fulham side at Craven Cottage.
Two goals from Sergio Aguero gave the David Silva-inspired visitors a commanding lead, but Fulham responded in superb fashion as they dominated the second half, drawing level through Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy’s deflected effort.
Questions will be asked of City boss Roberto Mancini's somewhat negative decision to replace Silva with a defender with the score at 2-1, but the hosts deserved their point and boss Martin Jol will be pleased at their resolve.
Fulham are still without a win in the league this season but this was arguably their toughest test, while City’s 100 per cent record was ended in entertaining fashion.
City controlled the first half with a confident swagger, dominating possession and carving Fulham apart seemingly at will.
Silva was again in fine form as the visitors passed rings around the West London side, and it was his superb through ball that allowed Aguero to spring the offside trap and clip a cooly finish past Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham had their arms held aloft and it initially looked offside, but replays showed that John Arne Riise had left a trailing leg back to play the Argentine on, thus making it a superb team goal.
That was on 18 minutes, and how Fulham went in at the break only a goal down will remain a mystery to all but Schwarzer, who was a one-man show at times.
The Australian made good stops from Aguero’s cross just as Edin Dzeko was set to nod home, from Gael Clichy’s thunderbolt drive and from Deko’s vicious finish after another mesmerising team move led by Silva.
Fulham, meanwhile, were looking for scraps on the break, an unusual sight for a team normally leading possession at home. The best opportunities fell to Damien Duff, who mis-hit his finish after a clever low corner from Murphy, and Clint Dempsey, whose opportunistic strike was well-held by Joe Hart.
The Whites were still in it at half-time, but hopes of a comeback were dashed 11 seconds after the restart when Aguero got his second goal of the game and eighth of the season.
Straight from kick-off City went on the attack, with Aguero picking it up on the right side of the box. He took a single touch before unleashing a rasping drive across and beyond Schwarzer to nestle inside the far-left corner.
A few minutes later Aguero thought he had his hat-trick but the goal was ruled out, the Argentine offside this time as Riise and Fulham stood up in unison.
Fulham were rocked but they soon settled and earned a fine equaliser on 55 minutes, Zamora drilling a sweet low finish home after excellent interplay with Moussa Dembele and Dempsey on the edge of the box.
The notoriously cautious Mancini reacted by replacing Silva - who was the best player on the park in the first half - with defender Pablo Zabaleta.
And the negative approach was punished as Fulham dominated the subsequent spell: Micah Richards made a goal-saving challenge on Dempsey, while Hart made excellent reaction stops from Dembele and Dempsey again.
Riise spurned a superb chance when he mis-hit his finish after Murphy sent him clean through down the left, but it mattered not as Fulham drew level soon afterwards.
There was a brief interlude as Richards headed a corner just wide but seconds later Fulham got a deserved equaliser in fortunate circumstances.
City were complaining that Dzeko had been fouled by Stephen Kelly, but the Bosnian went down easily under minimal contact: Fulham played on and Murphy drilled in a low shot that took a wicked deflection off Vincent Kompany, leaving Hart wrong-footed and nestling in the bottom left.
Meanwhile, City’s rivals Manchester United had just taken a 2-0 lead against Chelsea, soon to be 3-0. With main danger man Silva off the pitch and Aguero and Nasri tiring, Mancini reacted by introducing Carlos Tevez and Adam Johnson.
The pair combined well soon afterwards, Johnson’s run down the right finding Tevez, whose finish was blocked by Hangeland.
The closing stages saw City push for a winner but they seemed to play with the knowledge it would be barely deserved, speculative efforts from Toure and Clichy not testing Schwarzer.
Three minutes of injury time saw Fulham relatively comfortable as they closed out a very good draw, which would have felt like a defeat for City.