HALCYON DIGEST: Manchester City 2-3 Fulham – April 2008

City welcome Fulham to Manchester on Saturday afternoon, keen to press on after the hard fought victory against Hull City last weekend.  In anticipation of the game we look back to 2008 and a day that will be remembered by City fans for all the wrong reasons.

It was April 2008, Fulham were the visitors to the Etihad 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. 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.  It has since become known as the Great Escape by Fulham fans and the British media alike. City, on the other hand, went onto to lose 8-1 to Middlesbrough in the final game of the season.

Only with the beauty of hindsight can we say it was hardly a surprise that City capitulated on that day in such dramatic circumstances. The club were a shambles 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. Those protests look a little silly now but who can blame City fans for wanting to keep him at the time? Sven brought an air of hope to City, and some actual goals, after two years of slow decline under the rule of Stuart Pearce.

After the game Eriksson said:

We lost a game we should have won. We controlled most of it, and we thought it was done. If you don’t defend, you lose the ball and you give them chances. They fought until the end, but we stopped fighting. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for losing a game like this.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said:

It was a splendid victory for us, one we so badly needed. It looked bleak at half-time, and we had a mountain to climb – we didn’t deserve to be losing. But we did it. At 0-2 I honestly thought we weren’t out of it. I never lost hope, but to win it was extraordinary. We’ve given ourselves a chance now.

City Starting 11

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)

On this day Gabriella Cilmi re-entered the UK Singles Chart at 34 with Sweet About Me.

Written by Rob Toole

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