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
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition