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Report: Bristol City 1-4 Fulham

Bristol City were blown away in the first half by a clinical Fulham side on a day to forget at Ashton Gate.

Moussa Dembele’s opener after only two minutes set the tone for a difficult afternoon for the hosts, who would find themselves 4-0 down inside 36 minutes.

Dembele added his second after a flurry of City chances, while Ross McCormack converted a brilliantly-taken free kick and Ryan Tunnicliffe expertly lobbed Frank Fielding soon after.

Jonathan Kodjia registered a consolation goal deep into stoppage time to at least ensure City had won the second half.

Joe Bryan returned to City’s starting line-up after an impressive substitute appearance at Cardiff on Monday night, with injury victim Nathan Baker unable to recover from a hamstring strain.

It was Steve Cotterill’s only change as Derrick Williams moved inside to his traditional left-sided centre-back role to make way for Bryan at wing-back.

Fulham paid their hosts a compliment before the game had even kicked off, switching from their accustomed 4-4-2 formation to match up with City’s 3-5-2.

It was a decision that looked a shrewd move as early as the second minute.

Ryan Fredericks, he of City fame for all of 26 days at the start of the season, embarked on an early run down the right and saw his cross headed out only as far as Tunnicliffe, who dragged his shot harmlessly wide.

But City were exposed down the flanks for a second time in quick succession when James Husband charged down the left and delivered low for Dembele at the near post, who gleefully steered the ball low past Fielding and into the net.

It was goal number seven of the campaign for the talented French striker who continues to keep Matt Smith sitting on the bench at Craven Cottage.

Seven would become eight by the 18th minute despite the fact that much of the time between the goals was spent in Fulham territory.

Kodjia made USA international Tim Ream look silly with a stunning piece of skill to nutmeg the defender, but Elliott Bennett could not find Aaron Wilbraham as goalkeeper Andy Lonergan gathered.

Then Williams waltzed his way up from the back into shooting territory, passing the responsibility on to Kodjia who fired over from 20 yards.

Aden Flint was next to go close, volleying over from Bryan’s free kick, but the big defender had no sooner got back into position before a stray pass set the wheels in motion for Dembele’s second.

City were left wide open when Flint inadvertently gifted the ball to Tunnicliffe. The former Manchester United man opted to find Tom Cairney to his right, who set up Dembele to beat Fielding with another composed finish.

There had been little wrong with City’s attacking play, which would continue to cause Fulham problems, but the visitors’ counter-attacking exploits were a constant worry.

Kodjia was denied a penalty claim for handball and Freeman whipped in a peach of a corner that only just eluded Flint, but before long City had unravelled completely.

Freeman was forced into a cynical foul on Husband to stop another Fulham breakaway in its tracks.

In fairness it seemed the right decision when McCormack stood over the resulting free kick, which looked too far out to trouble Fielding.

But the Scotsman backed himself from all of 30 yards with a stunning strike over the wall that dipped and curled away from the City keeper to find the near corner.

That was after 33 minutes and three minutes later it was four, as a long ball caught City napping and invited Tunnicliffe to break from midfield, dispatching the bouncing ball with a clever lob that even brought some of the home support to its feet.

In truth it might have been more before the interval. Fredericks’ attempted cross deceived Fielding and only stayed out via the crossbar, while Jamie O’Hara’s clever corner routine picked out Cairney for a first-time shot parried away by the City number one.

The half-time whistle was greeted by stunned silence more than anything as the home fans tried to work out where such a one-sided scoreline had come from.

The second period began with a jinking run from McCormack that took him past two of City’s back three – Luke Ayling and Flint but not Williams, who blocked his eventual shot.

Kodjia remained lively for the hosts despite the uphill task, latching on to James Husband’s careless header that fell well short of Lonergan, but the keeper was out quickly and the Frenchman only able to find the side-netting.

Kodjia would continue to trouble the visiting defence, breezing into the box only to see his attempted cutback intercepted when perhaps he should have been more selfish, before Dan Burn halted him in his tracks with a well-timed tackle.

Simon Cox entered the fray for his Ashton Gate bow after 71 minutes, later shooting over the bar from 20 yards, before his attempted low drive was redirected into the net by the poaching Kodjia for a goal the striker deserved.

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