Man City 2 Fulham 2: Hughes calls for improvement as City throw away lead

26 October 2009 09:31
For all the improvements in Manchester City's play and prospectsover the past few months, a fundamental problem threatens to undermineMark Hughes' team.

If City do not improve their defending, they will not qualify for the Champions League.

Having started the season with four clean sheets, they are withoutone in seven. Yesterday, against a fast improving Fulham side, theyconceded two more goals in a match that they did not really deserve towin.

In truth, Fulham could have scored more. City's season still looks like being a good one. 

Comeback kings: Fulham's Clint Dempsey (right) celebrates with Damien Duff

Hughes' team are blessed with pace and some good passers. They havea collectively purposeful attitude and look as though they will alwaysscore goals.

Nevertheless, their work when they do not have the ball continues to be their Achilles' heel.

They would have been behind early in the second half had BobbyZamora not ballooned the ball over an open goal from no more than sixyards. It was a hilarious moment for all but the travelling Fulhamcontingent, and it saved City from what could easily have been adifficult second half.

As it was, City went on to score twice as they escaped from theirfirst-half lethargy with goals from Joleon Lescott and Martin Petrov.

The opener: Joleon Lescott (centre) smashes in Manchester City's first goal

But Fulham had created enough opportunities in the first half tobelieve the game had something in it for them, and it was not thatsurprising when the retaliation came through Damien Duff and ClintDempsey.

Having spent more than £55million recruiting the back five ondisplay yesterday, Hughes certainly has something to think about. Hecan, however, take comfort from the fact that his team are stilllearning how to play together.

He also knows that he can buy again in the January transfer window as he looks to add depth in this area.

Hughes said: 'We should have seen the game out and we do need to dobetter in some areas. We started well defensively but in football thereare always areas to improve.'  

Congratulations: Joleon Lescott (left) and Emmanual Adebayor celebrate

With such a dramatic afternoon taking place down the M62 at Anfield,this game had something of an under card feel to it for a while.

This was something not helped by a rather insipid first half.Diomansy Kamara might have scored had he not overrun the ball whenclear in the 18th minute, and Chris Baird and Jonathan Greening droveshots wide when finding themselves in surprisingly good positions inand around the area.

For City, Carlos Tevez headed narrowly over from a corner, EmmanuelAdebayor slid a shot just wide and Micah Richards saw a headerdisallowed for what appeared to be a foul behind him by team-mateGareth Barry.

Hide and seek: Carlos Tevez (left) is tackled by Fulham's Norwegian centre-back Brede Hangelan

It was all rather bitty for long periods but the second halfimproved dramatically as both teams tried to play on the front foot. Itis to Fulham's credit that they recovered from a damaging periodbetween the 47th and 61st minutes.

Zamora's miss was remarkable. Kamara's low shot had been pushed intohis path by Shay Given and how he fired so far over even he won't know.

'It's a shame because that is what will be remembered,' said Fulhammanager Roy Hodgson. 'What people won't see is the fantastic manner ofhis overall performance. For the other 96 minutes and 45 seconds ofthis game, he was terrific.'

Zamora must have rued this error when Lescott turned in City'sfirst goal after Barry and Adebayor helped on a Craig Bellamy corner inthe 54th minute. Petrov then picked up possession from Barry to scorewith his left foot on the hour.  

Two-nil: Martin Petrov celebrates his second-half strike at Eastlands

But Fulham put the memory of their disappointing late Europa League draw at home to Roma behind them to hit back.

Duff struck first a minute after Petrov's goal, driving a low shotpast Given from 15 yards, and the fact that his goal came so quicklywas crucial.

It gave Fulham the impetus they needed and Dempsey rose far tooeasily above Lescott to head a Greening free-kick into the corner ofthe net after 68 minutes.

After all the fuss of Lescott's arrival from Everton, he isstruggling a little and looked somewhat crestfallen as he left thefield at the end as boos rang out from the home fans. That, frankly,was ridiculous.

Rough and stumble: Craig Bellamy (left) tackles Fulham's Stephen Kelly

 PREMIER LEAGUE LIVE: All the action from Sunday's matches, as it happenedGARY LINEKER: Gareth Barry is who Rafa Benitez needs now more than everMANCHESTER CITY FC

Source: Daily_Mail