Brilliant Aguero steps up to help City stride forward

Manchester City 3 Fulham 0

Etihad Stadium

Manchester's canals had started to freeze over long before this game kicked off, but at its finish there was a trickle of clear blue water between City and United. At the turn of the year, the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, had predicted that if his side were still top of the Premier League when the Touré brothers returned from the African Cup of Nations, his side would win the championship. They are still on course, if not by very much.

Asked if a dubious penalty and an own goal were a sign that luck was turning City's way, Mancini replied: "If you are not lucky you should stay at home." He will be at home this afternoon watching Manchester United face Chelsea, hoping for another win from men in blue. "Manchester United are used to pressure, they are used to having to win but we know that, if we want to win this League, we must focus only on our own games."

Despite the fact Fulham have a reputation for travelling the country handing out points like a footballing version of The Secret Millionaire, this was a far more difficult game than it looked. Firstly, there was the pressure. Tuesday night's defeat at Everton had reduced the points cushion over Manchester United to a threadbare patch of goal difference.

Fulham were also the last side to come away from Eastlands with a point, nearly a year ago. They had lost only one of their eight previous League visits to this corner of Manchester while Martin Jol had won all six of his matches against City while Tottenham's manager.

Then there were the conditions. From the curved stands of the Etihad Stadium the scene below resembled a football match seen through a snowshaker. The second half in particular saw defenders wrong-footed on a sodden, freezing surface. Edin Dzeko steered a ball on to his own post while Joe Hart attempted to dribble the ball around Clint Dempsey and almost came horribly to grief.

Briefly things became so bad that ground staff armed with shovels came on to the pitch to mark out the lines. Just to emphasise it is not just English footballers who have to deal with this, Internazionale had to paint the lines pink for a 4-4 draw with Palermo played out in a blizzard on Wednesday. This was rather less entertaining but, under the circumstances, 3-0 was an absurdly comfortable margin of victory.

The match demonstrated that, no matter how poor the conditions, very good footballers can still thrive. Sergio Aguero had a hand in all three goals and his low centre of gravity and his tendency to run with short, muscular strides were perfectly attuned tohis surroundings.

They were nowhere better demonstrated that for the third goal. At Craven Cottage, Fulham had recovered from a two-goal half-time deficit to force a draw that saw City drop points for the first time. Now, as he skipped past one challenge and turned into the area between two defenders, Aguero ended that possibility with a square ball that found Dzeko unmarked and virtually on the penalty spot. It was a gift almost impossible to spurn.

For every kind of reason the home side needed an early breakthrough as the snow drifted down. It arrived via the penalty spot as Chris Baird brought down Adam Johnson as he took the ball past Philippe Senderos. The decision seemed obvious but TV replays suggested that, as Johnson slipped, he pushed his leg towards Baird's. Cute was an adjective that sprang to mind. Mark Schwarzer guessed which corner Aguero would aim for but the Argentinian's shot was struck too hard and too high. It was his 18th goal of the season.

This was emphatically not an evening Baird would wish to remember and perhaps Jol would have been better employing the pacier John Arne Riise against Johnson from the start. A cross from Aleksandar Kolarov was touched on by Aguero and driven back across the face of the Fulham goal by Johnson. In trying to cut the ball out, Baird simply deflected it past his own goalkeeper. The Ulsterman stood hands on his hips, the snow dripping off his face, willing the night to swallow him.

Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Hart; Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov; Johnson (Pizarro, 89), Barry, Nasri (Milner, 55), Silva; Aguero (De Jong, 79); Dzeko.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Senderos (J A Riise, 73), Hangeland, Baird; Duff, Etuhu (Ruiz, 68), Murphy, Davies; Dempsey, Dembélé (Gecov, 85).

Referee: Mike Dean.

Man of the match: Aguero (Manchester City)

Match rating: 6/10

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living