Imperious Tevez gets City singing from same sheet
FULHAM 1 MANCHESTER CITY 4
For a man who hails from the land of Verdi and Monteverdi, Roberto Mancini has probably heard more lilting lyrics than "he comes from Italy, and now he's at City'' but the song was music to his ears last night.
Manchester City fans have chanted their manager's name before, notably at West Brom recently, but rarely with such gusto as here with the goals flying in, with City looking a real team, with David Silva darting around so elegantly and with Carlos Tevez so imperious. One almost pitied Fulham's defenders; stopping Tevez yesterday was like trying to trap a runaway bullock with a butterfly net.
In a crazy Premier League season, with clubs wedged in together like students attempting to break a record for most freshers in a phone-box, Mancini knows that if City can stay consistent, work hard and stick together, then substantial reward could come their way by May.
It may not be the title but there is no reason why City cannot at least stay fourth, so entering the golden pastures of the Champions League.
The day had begun with the usual noises off in the City drama, this time some Kolo Toure comments questioning the work ethic of certain squad members. City officials do not have a problem with the tone or content of Toure's remarks, words that may be reflected in departures from Eastlands in January.
Expect to see Wayne Bridge and Shaun Wright-Phillips heavily linked with new employers. City clearly do not need the English pair, particularly with Aleksandar Kolarov impressing at left-back and Mancini not the most ardent backer of wingers. For all the success of Mancini's 4-2-3-1 tactics down by the riverside, starting Adam Johnson ahead of Jo would have added further to City's marauding menace.
Not even a late controversy could affect the mood of confidence returning north with City. Nigel de Jong, who had been the model of controlled midfield ball-winning, actually more sinned against then sinning, caught Zoltan Gera in the face with his shoulder and was fortunate to escape sanction.
Enough quibbling. Barring Jo's anaemic display and De Jong's split-second of excess, City were hugely impressive, strong in sinew and spirit. From the moment Joe Hart went round each colleague before kick-off, shaking hands and sharing words of exhortations, there was no doubting the determination of Mancini's men.
Counter-attacking to devastating effect, City were three to the good by the break, much to the delight of their vocal fans chanting "boring, boring City'' and to the dismay of the Hammersmith End witnessing at close hand the carnage wrought on their defence.
Fulham's nemesis was a stocky, snood-wearing Argentine who never stopped running, never stopped troubling the hosts. During one lengthy run by Tevez, Fulham fans were on their feet, beseeching one of their players to "tackle him''. The watching Diego Maradona, introduced as "one of Fulham's best fans'', must have been impressed by his compatriot.
Just as class flowed from the feet of Tevez, so mistakes tumbled from Fulham bodies. The stage was set for Tevez's early first when Aaron Hughes' poor clearance was seized on by the alert Kolarov, who found Gareth Barry.
Barry drilled the ball in to Tevez. Carlos Salcido was tight to Tevez but City's captain was too muscular, too resolute. His shot was too unanswerable, racing past Mark Schwarzer.
City dominated. Barring two fouls by Danny Murphy on De Jong, Fulham allowed the visitors to enjoy an untroubled stroll down by the Thames.
Their energy embodied by Tevez, City deservedly added a second through another man from Buenos Aires, Pablo Zabaleta. Again a Fulham error contributed, Damien Duff accidentally transferring Silva's cross to Zabelata, who thumped the ball right-footed past Schwarzer.
Just when it seemed to be Argentina Day in west London, Yaya Toure stamped his class on proceedings. The Ivory Coast international allowed a quick ball from Tevez to run across him, so wrong-footing Salcido, before beating Schwarzer.
City fans were loving it, chanting in praise of Mancini and debunking the general critique of their defensive tactics under the Italian.
"Boring, boring, City,'' they mocked. Mark Hughes, their ex-boss, was facing deepening embarrassment. Duff was withdrawn for Gera, and Fulham gained a bit of bite but they painfully missed Mousa Dembele and Bobby Zamora.
When Fulham did start pushing on, City stood firm. Hart clutched an awkward low cross from Andrew Johnson. Vincent Kompany threw himself to block a Clint Dempsey shot.
Then City added a fourth from a corner by Kolarov. Kompany headed back, Dickson Etuhu's clearance fell to Zabaleta and Tevez flicked home his effort.
City kept menacing; Yaya Toure embarked on one long run, unchecked by Fulham players, who backed off so far they were almost in Putney.
Hughes' men did pull a consolation back, this time courtesy of a rare mistake from City. When Jo headed out a corner, it fell to Gera 20 yards out. The Hungarian's shot raced through a crowd of players and into the net.
Nobody expected a comeback. None materialised either. Adam Johnson ran on to replace the tireless Tevez, setting Fulham another problem. Barry was then taken off, replaced by Patrick Vieira, not the first time a Frenchman has gone past him recently. Barry, though, can reflect on a good shift for his club. So can City. It was all over bar the serenading of Mancini. (© Daily Telegraph, London)