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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
4 February 2012
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 46963
S. Agüero 10'
C. Baird 30' (own goal)
E. Džeko 72'
90' + 5'
FULL-TIME! Thoroughly comfortable for Manchester City in the end as they put some points between themselves and Manchester United once again. Fulham had possession but little else at the snow Etihad Stadium. Thanks for joining myself and Goal.com for this match.
90' + 4'
Not far away from a fourth as City make a last push down their left wing. There's a bit of a bundle low at the near post with Aleksandar Kolarov involved but any chance is snaffled up by Fulham. It would have been soft.
90' + 3'
Stephen Kelly, one of Fulham's brighter performers, hammers another attempted cross from the right against Stefan Savic for a corner. Bryan Ruiz steps up to take it and it reaches the head of Clint Dempsey, but he has little control and it drops wide.
90' + 1'
We have five minutes of stoppage time due to the various snow interruptions, among others.
It breaks kindly for substitute Jon Arne Riise in the box but his angle is a little tight and he can only force Joe Hart into a regulation parry across his area.
Here comes a brief glimpse for City fans of new Roma loanee David Pizarro - hardly the ideal conditions for his thoughtful brand of playmaking but that won't matter now.
Edin Dzeko - who turned that corner onto his own post a few minutes ago - seems to have taken a bit of a bump and is wandering off with the physio.
Yellow Card Chris Baird
This match is petering out now. It has not been an emphatic drubbing but Man City have needed to expend little effort at any point to show their superiority. Fulham are still trying, as Stephen Kelly attempts a cross from the right, but it's headed away as most of his efforts today have been.
A mistake from Moussa Dembele allows Micah RIchards to snatch possession and the right-back careers forward with power if not precision. Running slightly away from the goalkeeper, he tries a shot but it falls short of the near post.
Nigel De Jong
Nearly an own goal as a Fulham corner comes off a City player and clangs against the post. It would not have been a stylish way to get back into it but nevertheless the hosts are lucky again.
A little surprising that Aleksandar Kolarov is still on the pitch, perhaps - his booking for a poor challenge prompted the bravado with Dembele in which they had equal part. The left-back is a lucky man.
Philippe Senderos has since gone off, you'll have noticed - about one minute too late for Fulham fans. It really would be something if they were to recover from this.
Yellow Card Mousa Dembele
Moussa Dembele gets a yellow as both he and Aleksandar Kolarov go head-to-head like jousting stags.
Yellow Card Aleksandar Kolarov
Goal.com's correspondent Greg Stobart is bravely enduring the conditions to send us this: "Some of the City fans are calling it a night already as the snow continues to drift down in east Manchester. They can do so knowing that the three points are in the bag after that Edin Dzeko strike to put the hosts 3-0 up. And if anyone was wondering how Sergio Aguero would react to freezing temperatures and horrible weather, he’s provided the answer tonight with his tireless workrate and exceptional skill."
Assist Sergio Agüero
Goal Edin Dzeko
GOOOOOOOOOOAL! And that must surely be that. Philippe Senderos is back on the pitch and, struggling, he is unable to stop Sergio Aguero powering past him from the left flank. The magical Argentine dribbles through and puts it on a silver platter for Edin Dzeko to deposit it home from close range. Game, set and match.
David Silva sets Micah Richards loose down the right and the full-back tees up Sergio Aguero in the middle. The Argentine shoots but sees it deflected behind and the corner results only in the ball being farmed quickly back to the Citry back line. City come forward again and have a scrappy period in the Fulham box trying to find that one break of the ball to shoot but it doesn't come.
Philippe Senderos looks set to go off as he hurt himself in that challenge with Aleksandar Kolarov.
And it's the Serbian who steps up for the set-piece. His effort ricochets off the wall and comes to no consequence. The groundstaff are back in force as the pitch is now almost entirely white. While they go to work, Martin Jol brings Bryan Ruiz on for Dickson Etuhu, looking to try to effect a change up front.
Yellow Card Philippe Senderos
The first real chance for City in the half as Sergio Aguero seizes upon a half-chance to shoot from the edge of the area which is deflected. The home side have a free-kick of their own now as Philippe Senderos earns himself a yellow for knocking Kolarov over.
A cluster of Fulham players queue for the free-kick but it's Chris Baird who seeks to redeem himself. His effort is a testing one for Joe Hart but the England No. 1 is on top of it.
Both sides are now starting to struggle to get the ball to do exactly what they want on this pitch - which should work in City's favour as they have the cushion. Gareth Barry bundles a white shirt over to give Fulham a free-kick opportunity, though...
The Etihad Stadium groundstaff are called on to give the pitch lines a quick clear-up in order to aid visibility, which the crowd seem to enjoy.
It's all Fulham in terms of possession so far in this seond half. City look the personification of calm. They find a moment to go forward with Adam Johnson on the right who tries to run at Simon Davies but loses control of the ball on the snowy surface. Fulham have it back not long after.
Mancini has his side waiting for opportunities to counter as Fulham look to get men forward by necessity. After some toil for no reward Damien Duff forces another corner. Here comes James Milner for Samir Nasri - he looks ginger as he walks off, clutching his hip.
The Fulham faithful are making themselves heard as their midfield patiently probes for an opening but Man City are standing firm and the door stays shut. James Milner is set to come on for the hosts.
Some neat build-up play involving Nasri and Silva sees Kolarov smack a right-footed shot against a Fulham shirt. It comes back to Gareth Barry a little deper but he lifts a pass straight to an away defender.
Gareth Barry picks the wrong pass, trying to thread it through a crowd rather than seeking out Aleksandar Kolarov in space on the left.
No half-time changes so Martin Jol is hoping to turn this around with the squad he already has out. We've kicked off in the second perod.
Let's not forget that Fulham came back from a deficit against Arsenal not long ago to win it with two late goals, but it looks like a bigger ask today. Ayo Jude Olowo agrees, tweeting me: "I don't think there's a way back for Fulham this time, City should just hold on to the lead." We shall see. The second half follows in just a few minutes - don't go anywhere.
SeptemberBorn1 thinks that this advantage is as clear as it's going to get for the home side. "city will carry the day by 2 goals," he says.
Early in the game, before the penalty, Shashwat Bachchan tweeted me to predict a 3-0 win for Man City despite Fulham being capable of setting up for a goalless draw. That almost looks like a conservative estimate now. It may be a question of 'how many' for the league leaders.
45' + 5'
Injury news from Goal.com's Greg Stobart at the ground: "We have an injury concern early in the second-half here. Referee Mike Dean is stretching his calf at every opportunity and running a little uncomfortably. No sign yet of fourth official Kevin Friend warming up on the touchline."
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME! Fulham were the last team to take any points off City at this ground in the league but they certainly look a long way off doing that again today. A penalty that looks just about right conceded by Chris Baird before he turned in an own-goal have made the difference, but the hosts look much better than the roughly 50-50 possession stats.
The snow is coming down very heavily indeed now as Fulham fumble around in the City half. They are unable to link up with each other properly and the ball is given back to the defenders once again.
Some patient build-up is started by the deep-lying Danny Murphy for Fulham. He supplies Damien Duff on the left who plays it off the defender for a corner, but once again the Irishman wastes the set-piece. The visitors have been noticeably very poor in that department so far.
Man City are dominant and it looks like a case of when they'll score a third rather than if. Is there a way back for Fulham? Tweet me your half-time views to @channeldelibird.
Here's our man Greg Stobart at the Etihad: "I’m struggling to type here despite wearing my newly bought fingerless gloves - but I fear the Fulham players and fans could be feeling a whole lot worse by the time this match finishes. The visitors have turned up here and not for a moment looked like they have any belief they can get something out of the game. As Martin Jol stands on the touchline, hands in pockets, he is watching his side playing with no energy whatsoever, as if waiting for the goals to rain in. The visitors need to keep the score as it is until half-time before some stern words from their manager."
Man City enjoying trying to pick Fulham off on the counter. It comes to Edin Dzeko in space in the centre-right channel, having turned possession around from a poor Duff corner, and he lets fly but Brede Hangeland falls in front of the shot to take the sting out of it.
Fulham look to rush forward on the counter with Damien Duff on the left who cuts it back into space for Dickson Etuhu to run onto it, but the Nigerian's attempted shot is limp and bogs down the whole movement.
Close to another own goal as Micah Richards rampages along the byeline from a throw-in and plays it centrally. Philippe Senderos attempts to intervene and Schwarzer is on hand to pick up his deflection. This could get ugly for Fulham.
Right away the Citizens feel that they should have another penalty. This time it's Dickson Etuhu who wraps his legs around David Silva's feet, it looks like, rather than the ball, but nothing doing. Roberto Mancini is not impressed.
Assist Adam Johnson
Own Goal Chris Baird
GOOOOOOOOOOAL! It's 2-0 to Man City and it's not a proud moment for Chris Baird. The cross comes in from the left and falls for Adam Johnson on the right of the area. He hasn't got much of an angle to shoot but pokes it with his right foot and it deflects off the hapless left-back past a helpless Schwarzer. Own goal.
The Cottagers are growing more adventurous, as they have to. Damien Duff advances inside from the right flank but has few options to pass as the City defence has marshalled itself well, so is forced into a shot. It flashes wide.
The sleet is falling apace now as Simon Davies bursts down the left again. His cross is headed away comfortably by Stefan Savic.
Adam Johnson finally gets a chance to shoot on his preferred left foot, but it's shooting for shooting's sake - a long way out, not enough space to deceive Mark Schwarzer. It's going wide and the keeper has it covered.
Lovely combinations from City! David Silva links up with Samir Nasri to put the Frenchman into the area, who then pulls it back for the Spanish playmaker. His rasping shot flies just inches past the far post.
The away side attempt to come forward again, very slowly but surely, until Stephen Kelly is supplied coming up from right-back. His cross into the area is aimed at Simon Davies, but the Welshman is too diminutive to win the aerial battle and nothing comes of it.
Fulham's gameplan needs some serious tweaking here. They clearly arrived to try to shut the visitors up but now face a deficit and a confident side with masses of possession. Martin Jol has some thinking to do.
Chris Baird is having a torrid time against Adam Johnson. The fleet-footed winger is controlling the ball on the byeline having just beaten two Fulham men with Baird crashes into him. It's a surprise not to see him yellow-carded.
A sumptuous cross from the left by Aleksandar Kolarov goes without a finish as Edin Dzeko flicks it miles past the post.
Replays suggest that Chris Baird may just have got enough of Adam Johnson's trailing ankle to knock him over for the penalty.
Here's a word from Goal.com's correspondent at the ground, Greg Stobart: "The City fans’ Poznan dance after that Sergio Aguero opener was probably more to do with keeping warm than celebrating taking a 1-0 lead in this match. I’m impressed by the fact that there are eight players braving the chill in short-sleeved shirts, but I must doff my wooly hat to the 15 or so Fulham fans who are shirtless in the away end. The West Londoners’ supporters aren’t exactly known for being outrageous but they are managing to have fun over there despite City’s dominance of the early stages of the game."
Fulham get sight of Joe Hart's goal for the first time with Goal.com columnist Clint Dempsey attempting an audacious effort from the inside-right channel, closely harried by a defender. It goes some way over.
Chris Baird it was who gave the penalty away. There are perhaps some questions over how much contact there really was - they certainly touched but whether it was really enough to bring Johnson down may be up for some debate.
Assist Adam Johnson
Penalty Goal Sergio Agüero
GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Sergio Aguero steps up to dispatch a textbook penalty. It's hit to Schwarzer's left but it's perfectly placed right at the post to move past the Aussie's reach. Already Fulham will have to improve notably to change things here.
PENALTY TO MANCHESTER CITY! After Dembele loses possession in the first excursion forward for Fulham, the hosts break and it comes to Adam Johnson in the area. He jinks around a large group of white shirts trying to find an angle on his left foot but is brought down...
There are a lot of bodies in and around the Fulham penalty area and it may have got in the way of the build-up a little, but Philippe Senderos has to clear calmly to interrupt a gradual City move in the box. It's very much a case ot attack versus defence as if a training exercise.
Fulham are yet to get the ball in the Man City half. They're setting up deep in the opening stages.
Samir Nasri seems to have lined up in the centre of a fluid-looking 4-4-2 alongside Gareth Barry. The two of them are contributing to a monopoly of possession early on and Dzeko gets another half-chance at the near post, but Brede Hangeland puts enough pressure on him for the attempted volley to go over.
After both sides take a few moments each with the ball, City push through the middle with Edin Dzeko being slipped through into some space on the edge of the area. He hasn't got a great angle for a shot, though, and Mark Schwarzer deals with it unworriedly.
Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey kick off.
We're about to get under way as City look to put some distance between them and rivals Manchester United at the top of the league - at least until their neighbours play Chelsea tomorrow.
You can tweet me your views during the game to @channeldelibird and I'll put the best of them up here during the half-time break.
If you've read Adithya Ananth's preview of the game (which you can find on the Preview tab up top) then you'll know that Fulham hold the distinction of being the last team to take any points off City at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League. That was nearly a full year ago - can they pull off an unlikely repeat? They'll need to be strong at the back in the face of that very attacking lineup from Roberto Mancini.
Veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has made it off the treatment table to return to the starting XI for Martin Jol's side, with young David Stockdale dropping back to the bench.
Captain Vincent Kompany is unavailable for the home side today as a knee injury has forced him out of the squad. Deadline-day loan signing from Roma, midfielder David Pizarro, is on the bench, however. City fans will be keen to see him make an appearance today and add a little extra class to their engine room.
And the TEAM NEWS for Fulham: Schwarzer; Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, Baird; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Dembele, Dempsey. Subs: Stockdale, J A Riise, Hughes, Gecov, Frei, Kasami, Ruiz.
The TEAM NEWS for Manchester City: Hart; Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov; Johnson, Nasri, Barry, Silva; Aguero, Dzeko. Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Zabaleta, De Jong, Milner, Pizarro, Rekik.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! commentary of Manchester City - Fulham in the Premier League. I'm George Ankers and I'll be delivering you the team news and build-up in just a moment. Strap in.
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