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Report: City 0-2 Fulham

City were beaten by a two-goal margin for only the second time this season as Fulham scored once in each half to run out comfortable victors at Ashton Gate.

Lucas Piazon slotted home the first from Tom Cairney’s clever pass, before skipper Cairney made the hosts pay for some sloppy play in their own half to double the advantage.
City had plenty of time to reduce the deficit, but were unable to build on encouraging recent displays in the first half at Derby County and the second half at Leeds United, and clear-cut chances proved hard to come by.
Lee Johnson made three changes to his side beaten 2-1 at Elland Road eight days ago, as Milan Djuric partnered Matty Taylor up front from the start for the first time.
Two of the alterations were enforced, with both Mark Little and Tammy Abraham sidelined by injury – the latter missing a game for the first time this season.
Adam Matthews returned to the starting line-up at right-back, while Lee Tomlin dropped to a bench that also included Hordur Magnusson and Bobby Reid.
Johnson had predicted a patient approach from the visitors and was not disappointed. Every Fulham pass was short and to feet, but City’s two banks of four were prepared to sit deep and be disciplined out of possession.
With the ball, the hosts’ approach was rather more direct. Twice Bailey Wright sent long diagonal passes arrowing towards David Cotterill on the right flank, while Djuric was the target from straighter balls as Taylor buzzed around hunting for scraps.
It was an opening period starved of goalmouth action. Cairney and Cotterill traded shots over the bar from distance, while Joe Bryan showed signs of having the beating of Fulham right-back Denis Odoi.
The deadlock was broken on 17 minutes with a goal that embodied the way Slavisa Jokanovic wants his team to play.
The Londoners took their time in City’s final third, waiting for the right moment to pounce before Cairney’s cute pass found Piazon to score rather too easily.
City responded with their best chance to date. Cotterill received another well-directed long pass in his stride and delivered an inviting cross attacked with menace by Djuric, who headed agonisingly over the bar as he threw his whole body goalwards.
Fulham were the team in the ascendancy. Floyd Ayite dragged a 20-yard effort wide before Neeskens Kebano raced on to another Cairney pass and scored with an accurate shot in off the far post, only to be flagged offside. 
The Cottagers may have looked comfortable on the ground but in the air they were susceptible. Jens Hegeler got his head to a Cotterill corner to force David Button into an unconvincing save, before another flag kick found its way through to Taylor at the far post, whose cross was turned against his own post by a white-shirted defender.
City were having their moments as an attacking force but also riding their luck defensively. Piazon’s low drive skidded only inches past the post, while Fabian Giefer parried a Kebano cross against the shins of Odoi, who was very nearly celebrating a goal he knew nothing about.
Then 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon sent another chance wide and Giefer charged out to intercept a long ball as City went in at the interval grateful to be 1-0 down.
Johnson responded with a half-time change, as Reid replaced Josh Brownhill to make his first league appearance in seven matches.
But within nine minutes City’s trouble was doubled with a goal that regrettably fell into the “self-inflicted” category.
Matthews’ square pass was seized upon by Ayite, who threaded the ball through for Cairney to dispatch with a brilliantly measured finish just inside the far post.
The unfortunate Matthews was soon sacrificed, with Tomlin introduced to rapturous applause, while Gary O’Neil followed in place of Hegeler as Johnson’s men switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation.
City were in need of inspiration, with the biggest threat coming from the new-look strike partnership.
Taylor, typically sharp, ran on to a Djuric flick-on and turned inside his man only to be thwarted by Kevin McDonald’s last-ditch tackle as he went to pull the trigger.
Then Taylor returned the favour, teeing up Djuric for a dipping strike that bounced just a yard or two wide.
Nobody could accuse City of giving up. Bryan set up Reid for perhaps their best effort – a firmly-struck shot from the edge of the box that temporarily escaped Button’s grasp before the keeper beat Taylor to the loose ball.
When Tomlin found space in the box with four minutes left, fed by Taylor, it was a chance City had to take to set up a grandstand finish. Unusually, the forward took too long and failed to get a shot away, and any realistic hopes of a comeback were extinguished.

 

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