The title challengers gave an efficient performance against an abject Cottagers, with the Spanish playmaker striking in each half to claim all three points for the championsDavid Silva saw an off-key Manchester City overcome Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, closing the gap on Premier League title rivals Manchester United.
The reigning league champions were ahead within two minutes, as Silva calmly guided Edin Dzeko’s parried shot past a hapless Mark Schwarzer.
City looked set to run riot, but they did not strike again until midway through the second half, as Silva latched onto Carlos Tevez’s through-ball and expertly chipped over the Fulham keeper, guaranteeing all three points.
Roberto Mancini picked an unchanged side for the first time this season, with Vincent Kompany remaining in central defence following the rescindment of his red card. Fit again Sergio Aguero was listed on the bench.
|SILVA'S KEY MATCH EVENTS|
The hosts got off to a flying start, as James Milner pounced on a loose pass and immediately offloaded to Dzeko. The Bosnian’s rasping drive was palmed into the path of Silva by Schwarzer, and the Spaniard duly stroked the ball into the far corner.
Despite the early goal, City struggled to exert their usual authority on the match as Martin Jol’s side enjoyed a large share of possession – albeit in non-threatening areas – and the game become a taut, subdued affair.
Mancini’s men seemed increasingly content to sit back, absorb pressure and counter, though could have conceded when Steve Sidwell outjumped Pablo Zabaleta at the back post, heading Damien Duff’s cross just wide.
City finished the half with a modicum of urgency, as Dzeko blasted the ball over the crossbar from an acute angle, and that intensity grew further after the break, with Tevez leading a more direct and high-pressure approach.
Nevertheless, it was not until the hour-mark that the hosts really threatened Schwarzer’s goal. Good work from Zabaleta earned his side a corner, and himself a game-ending injury, from which Kompany powered a header on target, which was almost diverted into the net by the outstretched boot of Tevez.
The home side finally doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining. Cute one-touch interplay between Gael Clichy and Tevez released Silva, who raced towards goal before effortlessly dinking the ball over the onrushing Schwarzer.
Seconds after the game restarted, Tevez and Silva combined again, but this time the diminutive playmaker could not beat Fulham’s Australian shot-stopper, dragging his shot wide of the far post.
Fulham mounted little response, despite healthy possession, and Joe Hart was almost completely untroubled as the game rolled towards its conclusion. Aguero marked his return from injury with a brief but lively cameo off the bench and there was time for Dzeko to blaze an absolute sitter over the bar from six yards.
The result sees Manchester City move to within four points of league leaders Manchester United, and if winning ugly is a sign of a good team, then City certainly proved their title credentials today.