Fulham 3 Manchester City 3: Fulham give lesson in team tactics to recall Eriksson's England shortcomings
This result was a turn-up. Manchester City's last five league games had finished 1-0, three of them in favour of Sven Goran Eriksson's men. Yet there was a hint as to what might lie in store – Fulham's last home game also saw six goals shared.
It satisfied everyone and no one. Fulham took the lead twice but then had to be grateful for a point. City, used to grinding out victories, had to score goals. Having eventually taken the lead through Martin Petrov, they then surrendered it, and a point was probably what they deserved.
Eriksson has assembled a team of confident technicians, but that was not enough as his usually composed defence showed some alarming creakiness, with Richard Dunne and Micah Richards exposed by Hameur Bouazza and Clint Dempsey.
The Swede said: "We have some very good individual football players, but they play as a team. Normally it's difficult to score against us and we don't score many either. It was strange. It's important not to repeat these mistakes against better sides. Up to now we've been rock solid. But with a new, young team these things happen sometimes and you have to work from there and try and do it better. I'm not going to lose any sleep."
He added something that may remind some of his time in charge of England, and will probably discourage Chelsea from approaching him once more. "It's better to win 1-0 than draw 3-3," he said. "I can understand that seeing six goals is always what the fans want. It's good for football."
Good football was what Fulham produced for their first goal, counter-attacking up the left in a move involving three players before Bouazza crossed for Simon Davies, who stole in ahead of Dunne.
Thereafter their goals came from direct play, with long balls to the front pair, which is where the manager, Lawrie Sanchez, differs from his predecessor Chris Coleman. The late equaliser was a case in point, with Seol Ki Hyeon heading Antti Niemi's punt into the path of Danny Murphy, who scored on his home debut. The Cottagers' second came from Bouazza drilling a free-kick past Kasper Schmeichel.
Sanchez famously outwitted Eriksson when Northern Ireland beat England 1-0 in Belfast in a World Cup qualifier in September 2005, six months after losing 4-0 at Old Trafford. He must have had visions of winning again after Davies' goal, but the 3-3 draw against Spurs three weeks ago was a truer indication of his team's abilities.
Chris Baird was beaten by Petrov for City's first and when they chose to attack through the middle Niemi could only parry Petrov's shot to Emile M'Penza. The visitors took the lead when Petrov played a one-two with Elano, but Niemi was at fault for letting the ball in at the near post.
Sanchez said: "Some aspects of our game are very good, some not so. When we can sort out the bad things we will do OK." Easier said than done, Lawrie.
Goals: Davies (13) 1-0; Petrov (36) 1-1; Bouazza (48) 2-1; M'Penza (50) 2-2; Petrov (60) 2-3; Murphy (75) 3-3.
Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Baird, Hughes, Bocanegra, Konchesky; Davies (Kamara, h-t), Smertin, Davis, Bouazza (Seol, 67); Healy (Murphy, 67), Dempsey Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Stefanovic. Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Schmeichel; Corluka, Dunne, Richards, Garrido; Ireland (Jihai, 83), Hamann, Richards, Petrov; Elano (Geovanni, 80), M'Penza (Bianchi, 80). Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Ball.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire)
Booked: Fulham Bocanegra, Dempsey; Man City Richards, Hamann
Man of the match: Petrov