FULHAM 2, MANCHESTER CITY 4
Manchester City’s 4-2 win at Fulham was their sixth league victory while scoring four or more goals this season but only their third away win of the season in the Barclays Premier League. An exciting day at blustery Craven Cottage showed that City were still full of goals but remain vulnerable at the back on their travels and perhaps lacking confidence under pressure.
Goals by Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Jesus Navas and James Milner sealed the points in inclement conditions despite an earlier own goal by Kompany threatening to ruin another away day for City against a Fulham side managed by former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen..
Fulham had lost seven of their last eight games and had to field Adel Taraabt in attack with Dimitar Berbatov injured. City on the other hand were still short in defence with Gael Clichy moved over to fill the gap at right back with both Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta nursing hamstring injuries. Aleksandar Kolarov came into the side at left back with Edin Dzeko replacing the injured Sergio Aguero up front.
The big news of the day was the return of Joe Hart in the City goal. It was his first league appearance since being dropped after City’s defeat at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea on October 27.
Hart had to make two significant early saves upon his recall, justifying Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to bring the England ‘keeper back into the fold. The Chilean later admitted that Hart would keep his place in the side against Liverpool on Boxing Day.
“He deserved to play and he also deserves to continue.” said Pellegrini.
Pellegrini also praised the impact of his substitutions, with James Milner and Jesus Navas scoring late goals to secure all three points for City when it seemed that Fulham might pull off another shock away day for City when they drew level halfway through the second half.
Two goals in the first half had earlier set City on their way, with Yaya Toure’s fourth free kick goal opening the scoring in the 23rd minute after David Silva had been fouled inside the D. Vincent Kompany extended their lead shortly before half time when he stabbed home the rebound from Martin Demichelis’ header from Silva’s free kick after it had parried out by Maarten Stekelenburg.
City should really have killed Fulham off in the second half but a slip by Clichy allowed Fulham to counter attack through Taraabt and pull one back after he found former Manchester United player Kieran Richardson charging unchallenged through the City defence with Toure and Kolarov in his wake. Richardson made no mistake.
Kompany then horribly sliced an attempted clearance which looped back over Hart and into the back of the net to level the scores.
It was a late blow which seemed to affect City’s confidence as Fulham easily kept the visitors at bay until Pellegrini’s late substitutions finally tipped the balance of power back into City’s favour with minutes to go.
Silva laid the ball on for Navas to break the deadlock with 12 minutes to go and Alvaro Negredo’s superb cross with the outside of his boot curled into the path of Milner to seal the points.