City’s lethargic two-all draw with Fulham on Sunday was extremely disappointing. City’s dominance for the first hour was undone by an inability to kill off the game and see off a relatively calm Fulham storm. Sunday’s game followed an eerily similar pattern to that of the reverse fixture in April 2008 when City, who were at home, lost three-two after being two goals to the good. Though City didn’t lose on Sunday it felt like defeat given the quality of the current City team.
Back in 2008, Fulham were the visitors to the Etihad Stadium (formerly the City of Manchester Stadium) and were staring into the abyss with relegation seemingly inevitable. With three games of the season remaining a City victory would have sealed the Londoner’s fate and condemned them to relegation.
City were two-nil up well before half time courtesy of strikes from Stephen Ireland and Benjani and were cruising in much the same manner as Sunday just gone when Kun Aguero bagged a brace for Mancunians. As it was City’s last home game of the season, the party had started. The sun was out, the weather was sweet and the fans were jovial. Out of nowhere, City switched off and Fulham produced a rousing display of football to go and win the match three-two. Not only did they save the game, they went onto save their season and avoid relegation. City on the other hand went onto to lose 8-1 to Middlesborough in the final game of that season. Though Sunday’s display was not quite as dismal it did bring back memories of the bad old days.
It is important to point out that I do not for one minute expect City to capitulate in quite the same manner in light of Sunday’s game. Simply comparing the two City teams from 2008 and now is enough evidence to fill me with confidence in the future (see below). City are in a completely different world, perhaps even universe, to what they were three years ago. This season, City have been nothing short of remarkable but it was oh so different back in 2008.
At the time, Manager Sven Goran-Eriksson was effectively a dead man walking as Thaksin Shinawatra had already publicly earmarked him for the sack at the end of the season. Some sections of the crowd were in protest to save Sven, such was the love for the ever so calm Swede. Only with the beauty of hindsight can we look back and be thankful that Sven only had one season at City. At the time who can blame City fans for wanting to keep him. Sven brought an air of hope to City after two years of slow decline under the rule of Stuart Pearce. Nevertheless, it was right that Sven went.
In 2011, City are a different beast entirely, unrecognisable from the team of Sven. Roberto Mancini is no push over and I’m sure he will eradicate such feebleness from his players. It won’t be too often this season that City throw away such a lead like they did on Sunday. When the going gets tough this season just remember how it used to be! To watch the match highlights of Sunday’s game click here.
City squad versus Fulham on 26/08/2008
Joe Hart (GK), Elano (DF), Sun Jihai (DF), Vedran Corluka (DF), Michael Ball (DF), Gelson Fernandes (MF), Michael Johnson (MF), Stephen Ireland (MF), Martin Petrov (MF), Darius Vassell (ST), Benjani (ST)
Subs: Geovanni, Felipe Caicedo, Shaleum Logan, Nery Castillo, Andreas Isaksson
City squad versus Fulham on 19/09/2011
Joe Hart (GK), Micah Richards (DF), Vincent Kompany (DF), Joeleon Lescott (DF), Gael Clichy (DF), Yaya Toure (MF), Gareth Barry (MF), David Silva (MF), Samir Nasri (MF), Edin Dzeko (ST), Sergio Aguero (ST)
Subs: Costel Pantilimon, Kolo Toure, Aleksander Kolarov, Mario Balotelli, Pablo Zabaleta, Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez
Words by Rob Toole