London – Edin Dzeko proved a super-sub by snatching a win at the death for reigning Premier League champions Manchester City as they edged Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
The Bosnian striker had been on the pitch for less than two minutes when a terrible clearing header from John Arne Riise fell straight to him and Dzeko lashed home to end Fulham's run of four successive home victories.
It was City's first win in five matches and came after Roberto Mancini's side had fallen behind to an early Mladen Petric penalty.
But Sergio Aguero's equaliser and Dzeko's late intervention ensured their title defence got back on track.
Mancini named Aguero and Carlos Tevez in his starting line-up for only the second Premier League match this season, with Matija Nastasic again preferred to Joleon Lescott at the back.
Fulham were without new signing Dimitar Berbatov with a thigh injury and Martin Jol brought Petric and Bryan Ruiz into his side.
City had most of the possession in the early exchanges but were guilty of some sloppy passing in the final third.
By contrast, Fulham looked dangerous with the ball and the visitors' defence were given a warning in the eighth minute when Hugo Rodallega just failed to control a lofted through-ball.
Little more than 60 seconds later though, Riise cut in form the left and was impeded by Pablo Zabaleta. The offence seemed to have taken place outside the box but referee Mark Halsey thought differently and Petric stepped up to slot home from the spot for his third goal of the season.
City looked slightly stunned but Tevez tried to find an immediate response with a shot from distance that was held by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
At the other end, Rodallega make a break down the left flank and his cutback from Petric was perfectly timed but the Croatian blazed way over the bar.
The reigning champions continued to push forward looking for a goal and Aguero should have done better when he headed wide following a corner.
Tevez's claims for a penalty just after the half-hour mark were waved away, although replays suggested he may have been pulled back by Riise.
City continued to look shaky at the back as captain Vincent Kompany was booked for a foul on Petric and they were denied an equaliser twice in the space of 60 seconds by the brilliant Schwarzer.
But the veteran Australian could do nothing to stop them drawing level two minutes before the break after his save from David Silva's deflected effort fell straight to Argentina international Aguero to stab home.
Fulham fought back in the second half with Brede Hangeland's header from a Bryan Ruiz free kick going just went wide.
The introduction of Mario Balotelli for Tevez finally gave Mancini's men some impetus and the Italian saw his effort from outside the box curl agonisingly wide of the post in the 70th minute.
Fulham substitute Alex Kacaniklic also came close to having an immediate impact when his cross was diverted into the path of Ruiz but the Costa Rican saw his powerful shot palmed away by Joe Hart.
There were just three minutes left on the clock when Riise failed to deal with a cross from Gael Clichy.
His header struck Hangeland on the back and fell straight to Dzeko's feet, with the striker making no mistake to fire the ball past Schwarzer.
It was less than City deserved but after a stuttering start to the season, Mancini will be thankful to have secured an important away victory. – Sapa-AFP