Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos. Match reaction below
David Silva struck in each half as Manchester City cut Manchester United’s lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to four points with a 2-0 win over Fulham. The Spain midfielder fired home a rebound after just two minutes and then grabbed a sublime second in the 69th minute as the champions enjoyed a comfortable win at the Etihad Stadium. Silva could have completed a hat-trick moments later but shot narrowly wide.
Roberto Mancini’s men looked confident from the outset against a side that had won just two of their previous 14 league games. They made a blistering start as Edin Dzeko took up an early attack and shot from 25 yards. Mark Schwarzer parried his fierce effort but Fulham had been caught short and Silva followed up to rifle in the rebound.
Fulham were unable to get anything going in response and Gareth Barry took command in midfield. Twice he won possession to set moves in motion that led to chances, the first as he released Silva down the left. The Spaniard curled in a good cross for Dzeko but the Bosnian headed straight at Schwarzer. Barry then stole the ball to set up a City counter-attack but Carlos Tevez was also unable to beat Schwarzer.
James Milner started to come into the game on the City right and linked well with Pablo Zabaleta before floating an inviting cross into the box but it dropped inches over Tevez’s head. The game went quiet as Fulham tried to take the pace out of City but the hosts still looked the more likely side and Tevez raced across the area before having a shot blocked by Brede Hangeland.
Fulham played a patient game and tried to build slowly but it yielded little until just after the half-hour when Damien Duff found room on the right. Steve Sidwell got free at the back post and was picked out by a good cross from Duff but his glancing header struck the outside of a post.
Tevez raced past Hangeland as City came forward again but Giorgos Karagounis got back to block his cross. Ashkan Dejagah played in Dimitar Berbatov just before the break but City held firm as Vincent Kompany denied the Bulgarian the chance to shoot.
Fulham made a positive start to the second half as they created a chance for Sidwell outside the area but he sliced well wide and City upped the tempo. Tevez broke towards the box but just as he looked to have found space to shoot Sidwell slid in to eliminate the threat.
Tevez then fired over and Zabaleta raced into the box to win a corner after clashing with Hangeland. Silva took the set-piece as Zabaleta received treatment and Kompany leapt highest to head on for Tevez but the Argentinian’s attempt on goal three yards out was smothered by Schwarzer.
Zabaleta returned to the field but could not continue much longer and, aside from his outstanding form, left the field amid some concern as City’s only fit right-back.
City were able to cope without him for the rest of the afternoon and doubled their lead soon after his exit following some brilliant play by Tevez and Silva. The Spaniard started the move, finding Gael Clichy out wide and the left-back’s pass inside was cleverly flicked back into Silva’s path by Tevez. Silva did the rest, running into the area and hitting a delicate left-foot lob over Schwarzer to score.
The crowd were still celebrating the goal when Silva went close to claiming a hat-trick, running through in almost identical fashion but this time rolling a low shot inches wide of the far post. Thereafter City were never in any danger and played plenty of possession football and almost carved out chances at will.
Dzeko went close with a fierce drive before Mancini decided to give fit-again Sergio Aguero a run-out in the latter stages. The Bosnia striker curled another effort narrowly wide before playing in Aguero with a fine pass. Aguero took the ball in his stride but then took a heavy touch as he tried to go round Schwarzer and failed to connect with a shot.
The Argentinian had another opportunity as he raced through moments later but, in his first outing since tearing a hamstring on New Year’s Day, was perhaps rusty as he shot wide. Dzeko could have scored a third in injury time but somehow scooped over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
Manchester City assistant manager David Platt: "We know how important David [Silva] is whether he’s scoring goals or not scoring goals but I’m pleased he’s got himself a couple today. His performances have deserved more goals than he’s got this season, that’s for sure but he’s got a couple today and could have had three.
“When you score after 90 seconds you think that will settle the side and you won’t have to try and open up the opposition defence over a period of time, but we didn’t really go full throttle in the first half.
“We defended well and restricted Fulham to very few chances, even when we were only 1-0 up, but you are always in danger of conceding with just a one-goal lead so it was pleasing to see the second goal go in when it did.”
Fulham manager Martin Jol: “If you concede goal after a minute and a half you really fear it’s going to be a bad afternoon. But it wasn’t; we did okay if you consider that they didn’t score the second until the 69th minute.
“I really felt that we could have done a bit more and scored an equaliser. The early goal didn’t help but Silva is probably the best player in the Barclays Premier League.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t score an equaliser to really frustrate them. Vincent Kompany is a player I know well and he had five or six easy headers when the final ball wasn’t great and I thought we could have done better.”
“John Arne Riise didn’t start so I said it was probably better that he didn’t come with us and did some extra exercise at Motspur Park. But he would never refuse not to travel. He’s an experienced player and he wants to play but Kieran Richardson has done a good job at left-back and deserves to start.”
|29 Jan 2013||v QPR (A)|
|03 Feb 2013||v Liverpool (H)|
|09 Feb 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|24 Feb 2013||v Chelsea (H)|
|04 Mar 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|16 Mar 2013||v Everton (A)|