Monday 19 February 2018

Tevez artistry keeps City in hunt for fourth

Fulham 1 Manchester City 2

John Ley

After experiencing la dolce vita on Thursday night, Fulham were offered a jolt of Premier League reality at Craven Cottage.

And, where one set of Italians failed, another individual triumphed, with Roberto Mancini leading Manchester City back into fifth place, with a game in hand.

Juventus may have capitulated in a stunning Europa League tie, but, having secured an early two-goal advantage, City held on and can now move into fourth place on Wednesday when they entertain Everton.

Roque Santa Cruz scored only his fourth City goal before Carlos Tevez claimed a stunning second -- and the club's 600th in Premier League football.

Fulham struck back late on when Danny Murphy converted a penalty and had the chance to level, but City held on and look well placed to challenge for the coveted Champions League place.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson insisted there was no hangover from the 4-1 win over Juventus, but there were moments, in he first half at least, when his players looked jaded. Even the fans seemed to be suffering a hangover, with a subdued atmosphere around Craven Cottage.

Mancini, linked with a possible return to Italy with Juventus, said: "It was an important win.

Here, against Fulham, it's difficult. They're a good team and have a good manager. It was important for us, but it will be a fight until the end of the season with the other three teams."

This was Fulham's 49th game of a marathon season but Hodgson said: "I'd like to think my players put the game on Thursday behind them, but it will be results that condition people's judgment on things. We made certain the players were physically recovered. We did two sessions -- one recovery, one preparation -- and made sure the players were ready." One worry for City is the injury suffered by England defender Joleon Lescott, who damaged a hamstring in the warm-up and had to replaced by Javier Garrido.

And City could have had further cause for concern had another Italian, Stefano Okaka, not squandered a good late chance and referee Lee Probert not rejected appeals for what appeared to be a good claim for a second penalty.

As on Thursday, Fulham suffered an early setback when the visitors took the lead in the opening exchanges. Against Juventus, Fulham conceded in the second minute; this time it took seven, with Santa Cruz, in for the suspended Emmanuel Adebayor, opening the scoring. Fulham had just gone close to a goal when Zoltan Gera's effort was dramatically cleared off the line by City captain Kolo Toure.

The visitors then counter-attacked, Tevez fed Craig Bellamy and the Welshman's shot was diverted onto the right post. Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer fumbled the ball as he attempted to clear it and Santa Cruz tapped home.

City doubled their lead in the 36th minute thanks to the brilliance of Tevez.

Another counter-attack produced a delightful move down the left flank which saw the Argentine thread the ball through the legs of Murphy, feed Bellamy, collect the return pass, then sidestep Chris Smalling -- soon to join Manchester United -- before finishing superbly for his 22nd goal of the season.

Fulham got a goal back in the 75th minute, Murphy making no mistake from the penalty sport after Gareth Barry handled Chris Baird's cross.

Okaka squandered two late opportunities and, in added time, City survived a second penalty claim when Bjorn Helge Riise's cross appeared to hit the hand of Vincent Kompany. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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