Sven sweating as Fulham breathe again

IT could not have gone much worse for Sven Goran Eriksson.

Rather like meeting the parents of a partner for the first time, only to discover that you don’t quite live up to their expectations, the Manchester City manager may just have given the club’s success-thirsty owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, the same impression as Fulham were allowed to claim an incredible victory at Eastlands.

Three goals in the final 20 minutes, two from substitute Diomansy Kamara, turned defeat into victory for a Fulham team that now harbours genuine hope of avoiding relegation from the Premier League.

Yet with Shinawatra sat in the stands for the first time since he delivered the ominous warning to Eriksson earlier this month that his position as manager was ‘under review’ the former England coach’s team could not have undermined Eriksson any more if they tried.

Despite the safety net provided by the two years remaining on his contract, Eriksson is on shaky ground at Eastlands. Shinawatra’s vision appears to clash with Eriksson’s desire to build City gradually and the pair’s meeting at Manchester’s Radisson hotel yesterday will have been a frosty affair, especially in the light of comments by the owner in the match programme.

Shinawatra said: “I have a very definite plan, a strategy. The first year top 10, the second year to qualify for Europe, and the third year, we want to be in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. We have to fit the plan.

“I know from what we have already shown this year that a top six spot will not be too much pressure, but to break into the top four will, so that is when I will be prepared to spend a lot of money to take us into the top four. I will not be spending huge amounts of money this summer, but the following summer I will.”

No pressure there, then. Eriksson is one of football’s more relaxed personalities, but even he appears to be becoming riled by his demanding boss. “We need more players if we want to take another step, there is no doubt about that. It’s important to know how much money there will be and what we can do.”

Perhaps losing so pitifully at home to Roy Hodgson’s team might just persuade Shinawatra to provide more funds this summer, because improvements are clearly needed. Whether the former Thailand prime minister can see the bigger picture is open to question.

Still, City’s inadequacies proved to be Fulham’s salvation. The Londoners appeared doomed once Stephen Ireland and Benjani put the home side 2-0 ahead in the early stages.

Fulham were abysmal and passionless until Kamara was introduced midway through the second-half.

From that point on, it was one-way traffic with Fulham dictating the direction and Kamara’s opener, followed by Danny Murphy’s close range tap-in on the rebound from his saved penalty, appeared likely to earn them a creditable draw until Kamara struck the winner three minutes into stoppage time.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart 7, Elano 6, Corluka 5, Ball 6, Jihai 5, Fernandes 6, Johnson 6, Vassell 6 (Caicedo 80, 6), Ireland 7 (Geovanni 56, 6), Petrov 7, Benjani 6.

Subs Not Used: Isaksson (g), Castillo, Logan. Goals: Ireland (10), Benjani (21).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller 6, Stalteri 5, Hughes 6, Hangeland 5, Konchesky 5, Davies 6, Bullard 7, Murphy 7, Dempsey 6, Healy 6 (Kamara 64, 8), McBride 5 (Nevland 71, 6).

Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra, Andreasen.

MATCH RATING: **** It looked set to be a walkover as City raced into their early lead, but Fulham somehow managed to turn the relegation battle on its head with an incredible late fightback.

REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral) 7: Dean had little to do throughout the game, but he called his one big decision correctly when he awarded a penalty following a Sun Jihai foul on Erik Nevland.

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