Fulham 2 Manchester City 4 match report: City win away in a manner of champions

Wise substitution from Pellegrini sees Jesus Navas stabilise the title challenge and leave Meulensteen still searching for a saviour

Craven Cottage

The away form that is the only thing standing between Manchester City and regaining the Premier League title has taken a turn for the better. After winning at Bayern Munich and Leicester City in the space of eight days they added a third success in different competitions yesterday to move into second place in the table.

City being City, the victory was not entirely straightforward, a dogged if limited Fulham being allowed to recover from 2-0 down at half-time to equalise. Manchester memories of losing after leading at Aston Villa and Cardiff must have resurfaced when Vincent Kompany’s second goal of the match – this time into his own net – brought the home side level but the fear lasted only 10 minutes before control was re-established with late efforts by Jesus Navas and James Milner. 

Depth of squad is critical for a club in pursuit of four trophies. Those two players were on the pitch as substitutes and City had been able to cover comfortably for the absence of their leading scorer Sergio Aguero. Coping without Pablo Zabaleta at right-back (Micah Richards is also injured) is another matter, Gaël Clichy having to deputise there on his ‘wrong’ side but if they continue scoring at this sort of rate – reaching 50 league goals before Christmas – what happens at the other end will hardly matter.

Clean sheets may be rare and Joe Hart was unable to keep one on his return after eight weeks yesterday, but he could not be blamed for either of the two goals that went past him. Serenaded as “England’s No1” - which no one can deny - by the thousands of City followers at the Putney End, he made two excellent saves in the first half. Left unprotected when the unmarked Kieran Richardson knocked in a cross for Fulham’s first, he could hardly have expected his skipper, Kompany, off balance, to miscue so badly.

“It was a hard victory,” said City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini. “Fulham play an intensive game and we had to work hard to win. The own goal was bad luck and the reaction, going forward again, was very important. We have a really strong squad with quality players and we can cope with having injuries.”

On Hart’s return, he added: “I spoke with him and he understood he was not in a good moment [when dropped]. But I thought he deserved another opportunity.”

It was a foul day for goalkeepers more than anyone in the imported Mancunian-style weather and Hart was tested early on in the wind and rain as Fulham started with more vim than might have been expected of a team in the bottom two.

Without Dimitar Berbatov, who had strained a groin in training, they used Adel Taarabt as the main attacker in a role he performed well, showing greater awareness of team-mates than has sometimes been the case and threatening with his shooting. Twice he forced Hart to fine low, one-handed saves, the first time after a cross by Richardson and the second following a counter-attack of three against three.

In between times, however, the outstanding David Silva, roaming behind the front two of Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, struck the bar and then City scored. They were awarded a debatable free-kick against Steve Sidwell and Aleksandar Kolarov, after looking favourite to shoot, made way for Yaya Touré to take it from the other side, his pefectly placed shot almost kissing the post on its way in.

Rene Meulensteen, whose fourth game this was, sounded satisfied with his side’s efforts overall but had to be displeased with the second goal they conceded at a crucial time just before the interval.

John Arne Riise fouled Samir Nasri out on the right and, from Silva’s flighted free-kick, the centre-half Martin Demichelis slipped round the back of the defence unmarked for a header that Maarten Stekelenburg pushed out, only for Kompany to place it back past him.

From a daunting position, Fulham recovered with spirit, the crowd remaining commendably behind them. Early in the second half Silva was for once dispossessed, Taarabt breaking down the left and delaying his pass until Richardson was well placed to side-foot it past Hart. Navas, on for Dzeko, missed badly from close range, which looked costly when Fulham scored a comical equaliser. The build-up was impressive enough as Scott Parker played a fine ball inside the full-back for the overlapping Sascha Riether, whose cross Kompany somehow looped into his own net.

City, in turn, reacted positively against what is now statistically the worst defence in the league. In the 77th minute, Giorgos Karagounis was muscled off the ball and Silva fed Navas for a right-footed finish through the goalkeeper’s legs for  City’s 50th goal of this remarkable campaign.

Shortly afterwards they had a 51st to end the argument after Negredo playing a wonderful pass with the outside of his foot for Milner, unmarked, to steer in.

Line-ups:

Fulham (4-1-4-1): Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos (Amorebieta, 37), Hughes,Riise; Karagounis (Bent, 81); Dejagah (Kasami, 64), Sidwell, Parker, Richardson; Taarabt.

Manchester City (4-3-1-2): Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri (Milner, 74), Fernandinho, Yaya Touré; Silva (Javi Garcia, 83); Negredo, Dzeko (Navas, 57).

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Man of the match: Silva (Manchester City)

Match rating: 8/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
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
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
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
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
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?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
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