MAN CITY 3, FULHAM 0.
MANCHESTER City finally buried their Fulham hoodoo as they re-established a three-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
City, who had failed to beat the Cottagers on their last four visits, ended that miserable sequence as they made it 12 successive home league wins this season.
The result was never in doubt this time as goals from Sergio Aguero, Chris Baird who put through his own goal, and Edin Dzeko set up a comfortable victory.
Indeed, with more clinical finishing City would have been won by an even wider margin as they ploughed through a snowstorm at the Etihad Stadium.
It was so one sided that the banned Mario Balotelli was spied by television cameras in a hospitality suite keeping himself amused during the match by doing magic tricks.
City manager Roberto Mancini was delighted with the performance after their setback in midweek.
“It was important for the team to win very quickly after the Everton defeat. After tonight, I am hoping something will change as January was a difficult month,” he said.
Mancini was referring to the fact City lost four of their eight fixtures in January.
The City manager could not fault his side’s endeavours – three goals scored and a clean sheet.
Mancini was also asked about keeping the pressure on their title rivals.
“If we want to win the league we have to win all our games and concentrate on ourselves not think about fantastic teams like Manchester United and Tottenham,” he concluded.
City, who were without the injured Vincent Kompany, made three changes from their midweek league defeat Everton
Adam Johnson, Aleksandar Kolarov and Micah Richards returned for Kompany, Gael Clichy and James Milner.
City, who established a 2-0 interval lead, ought to have been out of sight at the break after completely dominating the opening period in which they could easily have been awarded three penalties.
They also had a host of other chances as Fulham looked a pale shadow of the side which was unbeaten on its last four visits which had yielded two wins and two draws.
Dzeko twice went close before City took a 10th minute lead when Johnson went over the outstretched leg of Baird and Aguero scored from the spot, his 18th goal of the season.
Baird was fortunate not to concede a second spot kick after tangling again with Johnson as he weaved his way along the by-line only for referee Mike Dean to wave play on.
David Silva and Johnson both went close before City doubled their advantage after half an hour when Johnson’s shot was clearly going wide before it deflected off the hapless Baird and past keeper Mark Schwarzer.
City might have been awarded yet another spot kick when Dickson Etuhu clattered into Aguero from behind. It looked a stone-wall penalty.
Philippe Senderos then came close to putting through his own goal after slicing a clearance from a Richards cross. Schwarzer pulled off a decent save.
Aguero, Silva and Dzeko all had chances late in the half to extend City’s lead.
There was an unusual stoppage early in the second half when groundstaff were summoned to clear the lines around the penalty area as the snow fell far heavier than in the opening period.
That was soon followed by a second call to clear the lines for the whole pitch.
Fulham had a couple of sniffs at goal through Stephen Kelly and Danny Murphy, but nothing to trouble City keeper Joe Hart.
City were far less of a potent attacking force in the second period, though they added a third and match-clinching goal in the 72nd minute.
Aguero cut in from the left and squared the ball to Dzeko who was completely free 12 yards out as he picked his spot.
Fulham came within a lick of paint from getting a consolation goal 10 minutes from time when Joleon Lescott almost put through his own goal when a miscued clearance from a Bryan Ruiz corner struck the upright at the far post.
They also went close when Richards’ slip let in John Arne Riise whose shot was brilliantly kept out by Hart.
City handed a debut to new-signing as former Roma star David Pizarro made his first appearance as a last-minute replacement.