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
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
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

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn