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Man City 3 0 Fulham Prem24 Guardian

last updated Monday 06th February 2012, 9:49 AM
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Paul Wilson at The Guardian

Man City (2) 3 Fulham (0) 0

Manchester City made the best of difficult conditions to keep the pressure on Manchester United when they visit Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, brushing off a negligible Fulham challenge to win by three goals and put the same number of points between themselves and their neighbours.

It was not a vintage display but it was never going to be, given the wintry weather.

City simply needed a convincing win to put their recent setbacks behind them and they easily accomplished that.

They might have won by four goals but for a weak finish by Micah Richards late in the game, but the way the City captain muscled an uninterested Mousa Dembélé off the ball before setting off on a determined solo run neatly encapsulated the difference in attitudes between the two sides.

"We needed to win quickly after the Everton defeat, and keeping a clean sheet was important," Roberto Mancini said.

"Maybe we had some luck, but you need luck.

If you are not lucky it is better to stay at home."

Martin Jol was less inclined to believe in good fortune.

"We conceded a soft penalty and an own goal," the Fulham manager said.

"That's always going to make it hard away from home against a quality team."

City had to turn to the error-prone Stefan Savic in central defence when Vincent Kompany was unable to shake off a knee injury picked up at Everton, though there were plenty of attacking options at the other end with David Silva, Samir Nasri, Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko all in the starting lineup, albeit with Nasri in central midfield to allow Adam Johnson to complete a front four.

Dzeko was nominally the focus and was quickly involved, bringing a save from Mark Schwarzer in the second minute then volleying over the bar from Gareth Barry's cross.

The first time City used the full width of their attack they took the lead through a penalty, as Agüero on the left found Johnson on the right and the winger went to ground after the merest hint of a tackle from Chris Baird.

It was not clear whether there was any intent, or even whether there had actually been a foul, though Mike Dean took his time before deciding contact had been made and Agüero finished with aplomb from the spot.

"Johnson did well to get the penalty," Jol said with a wry smile.

"He gave the referee a decision to make."

Simon Davies brought a save from Joe Hart and Damien Duff saw a shot roll the wrong side of a post before Baird's day got even worse on the half hour when he deflected a shot from Johnson past his own goalkeeper.

Aleksandar Kolarov had crossed from the left for Agüero's flick to find Johnson unmarked at the far post, though his shot was going across the face of goal until it hit Baird and went in.

Fulham were in trouble now and as if to emphasise the fact, Philippe Senderos almost contributed another own goal from a Richards cross, only this time Schwarzer was able to react and make a save.

City could have had another penalty when Dickson Etuhu brought down Silva with a challenge that looked riskier than the one from Baird that had been penalised.

A third goal also looked likely when Agüero attempted to launch a quick break from halfway on the stroke of the interval, yet with Dzeko, Silva and Johnson all running into space in support, he failed to look up in time and ended up overhitting a pass that eluded all of them.

The pitch remained playable throughout the second half, although one of the penalty boxes had to be freshly defined with a shovel, but with snow coming down constantly the game was occasionally in danger of disappearing from view.

The first shot on target after the interval came from Fulham, Stephen Kelly obliging Hart to make a routine stop after 62 minutes.

It would be harsh considering the conditions to say that the previous 15 minutes of football had not amounted to much, but it said a lot that the men with the snow shovels produced a much livelier crowd reaction than anything the players managed.

Senderos was rather harshly booked for what was no more than an accidental collision with Kolarov on the edge of the area when players on both sides were finding it difficult to stay on their feet.

The defender hurt himself in the process and for one reason or another found himself unable to challenge Agüero as he set up City's third, allowing the Argentinian to skip into the area from Johnson's pass and square the ball to leave Dzeko a chance he could not miss.

Fulham managed to hit a post shortly afterwards, or at least a deflection off Dzeko's heel did following a corner, but the visitors' luck was out.

City's was definitely in.

After losing in midweek to a feisty and highly-motivated Everton, they could not have asked for more accommodating opponents.

An unmemorable contest long over, the announcement of five minutes added time at least brought one of the best chants of the season.

"It's flipping freezing," the crowd sang, or words to that effect.

"We wanna go home."

Man City Hart, Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov, Nasri (Milner 54), Barry, Silva, Johnson (Pizarro 90), Aguero (De Jong 80), Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Clichy, Rekik.

Booked: Kolarov.

Goals: Aguero 10 pen, Baird 30 og, Dzeko 72.

Fulham Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos (John Arne Riise 73), Baird, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu (Ruiz 68), Duff, Dembele (Gecov 85), Dempsey.
Subs Not Used: Stockdale, Kasami, Hughes, Frei.

Booked: Senderos (67,f), Dembele (75, ub), Baird (85,f).

Att: 46,963

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

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