Two goals from David Silva saw an off key Manchester City overcome Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, closing the gap on Premier League title rival Manchester United. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
The reigning league champion was 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 didn’t strike again until mid-way through the second half, as Silva latched onto Carlos Tevez’s through ball and expertly chipped it 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 defense. Fit again Sergio Aguero was listed on the bench.
Fulham made six changes to the side that stumbled past Blackpool in the FA Cup. Kieran Richardson, who scored against the Tangerines, was picked at left back, while Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov returned up front.
The home side 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 its 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 they could have conceded when Steve Sidwell out jumped 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 wasn't until the hour-mark that the Citizens really threatened Schwarzer’s goal. Good work from Zabaleta earned his side a corner (and 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 the 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 couldn’t 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 leader Manchester United, and if winning ugly is a sign of a good team, then City certainly proved its title credentials today.
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