Impressive attacking display as title contenders run riot...
Manchester City dispelled any suggestions that they play negative football with a stunning performance at Craven Cottage as they quite simply outclassed a lacklustre Fulham side.
A brace from Carlos Tevez either side of strikes from Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure gave City a fully deserved win in a match that they dominated from start to finish.
Roberto Mancini’s side went into the game with Fulham knowing that victory would see them close the gap on leaders Chelsea to just three points, following the blues surprise defeat at Birmingham yesterday.
Mark Hughes came up against his former employers for the first time since his dismissal from the Eastlands club last year; looking to kick start Fulham’s faltering start to the season which has seen them win just two Premier League games.
City started the game like a team who had been given a new leash of life with the favourable results which went for them yesterday, well aware that this season represents arguably the most open title contest in the Premier League’s history.
Despite the increasing pressure on Mancini and continued criticism of his negativity in recent matches the Italian opted to retain the formation which had seen them fail miserably to score in their last two outings. City retained both Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry in their midfield with Yaya Toure operating in front of the defensive duo.
City dominated the opening stages and found the breakthrough after just six minutes. Carlos Tevez collected a Gareth Barry pass on the edge of the Fulham penalty area, easily outmuscling Carlos Salcido in the process and kept his composure to give City the perfect start. Fulham appealed for offside and replays suggested that it was a touch and go decision.
The early goal seemed to inspire City to take control of proceedings whilst having the complete opposite effect on the home side who seemed to lack any confidence, as their recent bad run in the league suggests.
Left back Aleksander Kolarov should have made it 2-0 when he raced clean through at the end of a swift City counter attack but Mark Schwarzer made a fine save down to his left to deny the former Lazio man.
City were playing some fantastic football, their passing neat and crisp and they had taken total control of the game, with the excellent David Silva proving to be a constant menace to the Fulham back line.
The visitors total domination was rewarded in spectacular fashion just after the half an hour mark when Pablo Zabaleta connected with a loose clearance to smash home an unstoppable drive from 22 yards.
As the away fans sarcastically began the chant of ‘boring boring City,’ record summer signing Yaya Toure scored his second goal of the game to put the finishing touches on a sensational first half performance.
The goal came at the end of a 24 pass move which inevitably featured the rampant Silva and Tevez, who played an exquisite through ball to Yaya Toure and he made no mistake in slotting the ball into the corner of the net. It was exhibition stuff.
Mark Hughes’s nightmare against his former club was to get worse when City added a fourth soon after the restart. It was tough on Fulham who had made a spirited start to the half, but the irrepressible Tevez soon put an end to any faint hopes the home side had of getting back into the match.
Fulham’s fragile defence were once again torn to pieces when Zabaleta’s pass found Tevez who saw his shot saved by Schwarzer. However, from the resulting corner, Zabaleta’s low strike was flicked in by the Argentinean who was standing right in front of Schwarzer’s eye line.
With Diego Maradona in attendance at the Cottage as Fulham’s special guest, it seemed that Tevez and his team-mates were determined to put on a show for the former Argentina coach and they were certainly not letting him down, playing a brand of football that he must have enjoyed.
Fulham snatched their consolation goal when a slack clearance from Jo was side footed in by Zoltan Gera. However, the goal could not cover up the huge gulf in class between the two sides as City sent out a warning to their Premier League rivals that they are firmly in the race for the Premier League title.