Manchester City stepped up their bid for a fourth-placed finish after claiming a 2-1 win at Fulham.
Blues beat Cottagers to boost hope of Champions League spotManchester City stepped up their bid for a fourth-placed finish after claiming a 2-1 win at Fulham. The Blues were in control at half-time after Roque Santa Cruz's seventh-minute opener was followed by Carlos Tevez's 22nd goal of the season in the 36th minute. City looked assured despite the late withdrawal of defender Joleon Lescott, with Fulham lacking the energy to break down the Blues following their famous Europa League win over Juventus on Thursday. But the visitors were left hanging on after Danny Murphy converted a 75th-minute penalty to give the Cottagers hope of snatching a point. Mid-table Fulham also showed they had an eye on Wednesday's FA Cup quarter-final replay as Roy Hodgson took off both Bobby Zamora and Zoltan Gera early in the second half. It was a timely win for Roberto Mancini's men following Liverpool's defeat at Manchester United earlier, with the three points taking City above the Reds into fifth place, back within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.
ReshuffleHaving already decided to make two changes in defence, Mancini was forced into a reshuffle as Lescott suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up. Left-back Javier Garrido was drafted in, with Kolo Toure returning in the centre of defence alongside Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta dropping back to right-back. Mancini's makeshift defence was protected well by Gareth Barry and Patrick Vieira, who made his first start since serving his three-match ban. Fulham fans were still buzzing from their memorable victory over Juve and almost had more to sing about as Zamora headed back Damien Duff's cross for Gera to steer over City keeper Shay Given but Toure acrobatically cleared off the line. The visitors then broke through Tevez, who laid the ball wide right for Craig Bellamy and although his deflected shot hit a post, the rebound bounced over keeper Mark Schwarzer for the recalled Santa Cruz to poke home his fourth goal in an injury-hit season. It was also the Paraguayan striker's first under Mancini, who was rewarded for fielding an attacking line-up against a team that had only lost once at home since September. Tevez twice tested Schwarzer from just outside the box before capping another City counter-attack to double City's lead nine minutes before the break.
ClincherZabaleta fed Tevez on halfway and the Argentina striker nut-megged Murphy before finding Bellamy on the left and Tevez took his return pass to turn inside Chris Smalling and produce a neat finish from 10 yards. Although Fulham looked more lively when Clint Dempsey and Stefano Okaka came on just after the break, City almost sealed victory as Santa Cruz tested Schwarzer from Adam Johnson's pass and Johnson then cut in from the right to fire against the outside of the far post. Bellamy was also found by Johnson and he chested the ball down before firing narrowly wide. The hosts were given hope when Barry attempted to chest down Chris Baird's right-wing cross and the referee's assistant felt it was handled by the England midfielder. Murphy stroked the spot-kick into the bottom-left corner, with Given diving the other way, before City substitutes Nigel de Jong and Shaun Wright-Phillips missed chances to seal victory on the break. Okaka fired wide with the best chance for an equaliser and referee Lee Probert turned down a strong penalty shout against Kompany, deeming his handball was not deliberate.
|Fulham||Team Statistics||Manchester City|
|0||1st Half Goals||2|
|2||Shots on Target||8|
|5||Shots off Target||5|