Fulham Fight Back Against Man City to Retain UWCC Title
Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) witnessed another defence yesterday as champions Fulham took on big spending Manchester City at Eastlands.
City went into this match with a 100% home record so far this season and this, coupled with the star power available to boss Mark Hughes and Fulham's dismal away form (just eight away games won in the past four seasons), made the home side firm favourites to outclass their opponents.
But the West Londoners weren't in bad form themselves. Unbeaten in their last four games, including coming within seconds of a famous victory over Roma in their last match, Fulham were no strangers to overcoming the odds.
And overcome the odds they did, recovering from a two goal deficit to grab a point, the final score being 2-2.
The defensive nature of Fulham's tactics was clear to see in the first half, as Roy Hodgson tried to implement the same counter-attacking game that saw his side almost beat Roma.
Predictably, then, it was City who had the lion's share of possesion and chances.
Emmanuel Adebayor created the first chance, laying a pass off to Carlos Tevez, but the Argentinian saw his shot bobble wide.
Adebayor then had a half-chance of his own. Craig Bellamy's cross from the left was just behind him, and the ex-Arsenal man produced a clever back-heel but it never seriously tested Mark Schwarzer.
As the game wore on, evidence of Fulham's counter-attacking philosophy was plain to see as Hodgson's plan looked like coming to fruition.
One such counter-attack presented Diomancy Kamara with a good opportunity to open the scoring.
Bobby Zamora poked the ball through but Kamara, one on one with Shay Given, took a heavy touch which allowed the City goalkeeper to collect the ball at his feet.
It was City who were the dominating force in the match, however, and they should have taken the lead soon after Kamara's chance.
Wayne Bridge's long range effort deflected to Nigel De Jong inside the box whose effort produced a stunning save from Schwarzer.
The half ended in controversy after referee Kevin Friend disallowed Micah Richards' headed goal. Martin Petrov's corner was met by the Englishman who beat Schwarzer, only have his goal ruled out for a push by Gareth Barry on Chris Baird.
If Richards felt a sense of disbelief at the decision, it was nothing compared to what everyone inside the ground felt soon after the second half kicked off.
After some good work on the left by Kamara, Clint Dempsey's shot was deflected into the path of Zamora who, with the goal at his mercy from just six yards out, side-footed the ball over the crossbar in one of the worst misses you will see this season.
And City took full advantage of this remarkable let off. A corner from Bellamy led to Barry poking the ball to Adebayor who held off the defenders to knock it on to Lescott who, amidst a goalmouth scramble, managed to squeeze it over the line to give City the lead.
This lead was doubled just minutes later too, when Martin Petrov linked up with Gareth Barry before getting the ball back, finding some space on the edge of the box, and curling it past a helpless Schwarzer.
In the space of a few minutes, City had gone from somehow not being 1-0 down to being 2-0 up. Then, in the space of just eight minutes, it was all level again.
Stephen Kelly's cross found Bobby Zamora who went some way to redeeming himself for his earlier miss by chesting the ball down to Damien Duff who shot low and hard past Shay Given.
It was another cross that caused the problems for Fulham's second goal too, this time Clint Dempsey rising highest and directing a fine header past Given.
In the space of just 15 minutes there had been four goals, and the drama didn't end there.
Gareth Barry came close to restoring City's lead with his header, while Kamara almost gave Fulham the three points with an effort of his own.
The result means that Man City join Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Stoke as the least successful teams in UWCC history, each losing all three of their title matches.
Again, the minority of people who voted in the poll correctly predicted the outcome of this match, with just 20 percent backing Fulham to retain their title!
Fulham 2-0 Hull (Fulham become new champions)
Manchester City 2-2 Fulham
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Fulham's next title match comes on Saturday as they host Manchester United's conquerors. No, not Burnley but Liverpool. Can Rafa Benitez's men beat Fulham and become the first ever three-time UWCC Champions?!
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