MAN CITY 5, FULHAM 0
Yaya Toure’s first hat trick for Manchester City and first of his career helped propel Manuel Pellegrini’s side into second spot in the Barclays Premier League.
The midfield man from the Ivory Coast almost single handedly orchestrated the victory which strengthened City’s title challenge as they disposed of the Cottagers without playing anywhere near their scintillating best.
Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis also found the net as City were far too strong for bottom-of-the-table Fulham.
Pellegrini paid tribute to Toure as he extended his season’s goal tally to 20 saying: “It is important for Yaya the way he plays. Before the season he was criticised for not defending well.
“He is a very important player the way he likes to play and to score 20 goals in a season for a midfielder is not very easy.”
Pellegrini added it was a perfect day continuing: “It was a complete performance as we kept a clean sheet which is important in the last part of the season.
“We need a balanced team and we also scored five goals and had a lot more chances.”
City’s manager added it was a good start to an important week in which City’s next two games are away to Manchester United and Arsenal.
“Winning is always good preparation for the next match and the derby is always a special match which we can now start to look forward to,” he continued.
Pellegrini also insisted the title race is more than a two-horse race with Chelsea as the bookmakers are implying.
He said: “It is not just between City and Chelsea as Liverpool are playing well every week and scoring goals.
“Arsenal lost today and are seven points behind Chelsea having played one game less. Four teams still have a chance and there are still a lot of points to play for.
City made four changes from the side which kicked off at Hull City, though the absences of captain Vincent Kompany and Edin Dzeko were enforced through suspension and illness respectively.
Gael Clichy and Javi Garcia were relegated to the bench as there were call ups for Joleon Lescott, Aleksandar Kolarov, James Milner and Alvaro Negredo.
City had two early penalty shouts turned down by referee Jon Moss, both involving Steve Sidwell. The first was a handball and second incident a late challenge on James Milner.
Fulham keeper David Stockdale was called into action to beat out a drive from Milner while at the opposite end a drive from Kieran Richardson flashed just wide of the upright.
City made the breakthrough in the 26th minute through a Toure penalty which was awarded after a foul by Fernando Amorebieta on Negredo. Referee Moss waved play on, but he was alerted by assistant Simon Long who had a better vantage point.
They twice came within a whisker of doubling the lead when David Silva burst clear and rounded Stockdale before seeing his shot cleared off the goalline by Amorebieta and Kolarov struck the crossbar with a fierce shot.
City finally scored their second in the 54th minute when Fulham conceded their second penalty as Amorebieta was shown a straight red card for scything down Silva who burst through goal. Toure sent Stockdale the wrong way for the second time.
Toure completed his hat trick midway through the half with curling home a majestic effort from 25 yards to the left of Stockdale for his 20th goal of the season.
City were denied a fourth goal when a Demichelis header was cleared off the line by Sascha Riether.
It was not long before City made it 4-0 when Fernandinho crashed home a spectacular shot from the right of the box.
And there was time for a fifth goal when Negredo’s angled shot was beaten out by Stockdale but only into the path of Demichelis who had the easiest of tap ins.
City could have added a sixth on stoppage time when Negredo fired wide inside the six-yard box when it looked as though he could not miss.