Manchester City know all about the glory derived from goal difference – one can only hope they don’t taste the despair of the all important differentiator come May.
Roberto Mancini’s men delivered an accomplished, if not exhilarating, win over a lacklustre Fulham who couldn’t muster a single save from the redundant Joe Hart.
Truth be told, a Tesco beefburger carried more threat than ex-Red Dimitar Berbatov and his team mates, and City gobbled up the points.
A 47,000 plus Etihad turnout, on a bitterly cold day, must have thought David Silva’s 95 second opening strike was simply an hors d’oeuvre to a warming goal feast.
The great Gran Canarian latched onto Mark Schwarzer’s parried save from a 25-yard Edin Dzeko shot, sweeping the ball into the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
If Fulham boss Martin Jol had had any bus parking plans it was obvious he’d have to change gear with his side a goal down within two minutes.
Frustratingly it took another 67 minutes before the swashbuckling Silva was to treble his season’s goal haul, but it was well worth the wait. The exquisite Spanish playmaker proved an accomplished goal taker as he dinked the ball over Schwarzer, the culmination of a splendid sweeping move.
Gael Clichy – one of City’s outstanding performers this season – and a constant threat from the flanks, played a simple ball inside to the irrepressible Carlos Tevez.
Tevez nudged a nifty back heel pass into the channel for Silva to carry into the penalty box, elude a challenge from one time City transfer target Steve Sidwell (how things have moved on) and chip Fulham’s Aussie keeper from close range.
Within 60 seconds the Spaniard was within a whisker of the most unlikely hat-trick of the season. Once again it was the industrious Tevez who threaded a precision through ball to Silva from 30 yards out.
From almost the identical spot of his second goal, Silva fashioned an angled ground shot past the onrushing Schwarzer, only to see it snake agonisingly wide.
The ex-Valencia man dropped to the floor head in hands – what price a Silva treble – it would have bought a year’s supply of Tesco value burgers with or without added Shergar.
If his team mates had not been so profligate at horsing around and wasting a stable full of chances this could have, neigh, would have been a 5-0 drubbing.
Miss of the day fell to top scorer Dzeko who, with the Fulham defence as shapeless as Jo Brand in a boiler suit, ballooned a side foot shot over the bar in the dying seconds. Clichy had created the chance with a wonderful cross field pass – another example of his excellent play.
Dzeko had earlier bent a shot wide of the upright after smooth City approach play.
The welcome sight of a returning Aguero from the subs bench was almost capped by a typical Sergio ground strike that whizzed inches past the post.
Tevez had foraged and fought all afternoon in a lopsided Little & Large encounter with the towering Brede Hangeland. The giant Fulham centre back effectively ended the participation of Tevez’s compatriot, Pablo Zabaleta, after the Argentine warrior accidentally clashed boots with the big Norwegian.
Limping off to a rousing chorus of ‘Doo Doo Doo Pablo Zabaleta…’ it wouldn’t be the same if the City fans’ favourite emerged unscathed from a game. He is the embodiment of City’s spirit and the Blues faithful absolutely adore him.
Javi Garcia continued his Premier League odyssey, acclimatising more and more to the Premier League with every game. It still does not prevent some dullards in the home support latching onto any mistake, but the Boss model is beginning to look the part.
He was wrongly penalised for a magnificent tackle on Sidwell and improves game-by-game.
Surprisingly, Fulham had 55% possession but were clueless what to do with it. Two shots with none on target was an appalling showing. City had 17 attempts on goal, seven on target but may yet rue so many misses.
Informed sources suggest maverick Mario Balotelli is on the verge of a switch to his boyhood favourites AC Milan, if the Italians can get close to City’s asking fee.
A move for the enigmatic, irascible, unpredictable Mario could trigger a move for the wholly more reliable, productive and clinical Edinson Cavani from Napoli.
The Uruguayan hitman – the bane of City’s debut Champions League campaign – would be a stunning addition to the Blues’ forward line, banishing any goal difference dilemmas by the season’s end.