After the intensity of their Goodison Park defeat in midweek Manchester City were able to indulge in what amounted to little more than a training ground exercise as they comfortably disposed of Fulham 3-0 at the Ethihad Stadium.
The win moved City three points clear at the top of the table with United playing Chelsea tomorrow but more than anything it represented a relievingly stress free victory in what has been becoming an increasingly turbulent season.
First half goals from Sergio Aguero and a Chris Baird own goal allowed Roberto Mancini’s men to leave the car in 2nd gear for the remainder. In truth they could have gotten the bus against Fulham. Edin Dzeko added a third in the 72nd minute.
After a relatively even opening the game was changed by one shrill blast of referee Mike Dean’s whistle. Sergio Aguero made headway down the wing a before feeding Adam Johnson. The winger surged forward into the area and would have continued on had a clumsy challenge from Chris Baird simultaneously impeded his progress and Fulham’s chances.
To their credit the Cottagers didn’t buckle although their nerve would have been tested had Dean awarded City another penalty eight minutes later when Edin Dzeko went down in the box.
Chances were few and far between in the opening half with City dominating possession for the most part as both sides struggled in the snowy conditions despite the pitches relatively decent condition.
When City did get a second goal it was really more a courtesy from Fulham’s defence than any real creativity on their own part as Johnson’s cross/shot was deflected into his own net by Baird who was by far and away Cities most creative player in the first half.
Mark Schwarzer was almost beaten by his defender again two minutes later with only sharp reflexes keeping a Philippe Senderos deflection.
The Aussie than saved from Aguero before like the rest of us watching in shock as the normally perfect David Silva scooped over from a couple of yards.
Fulham made it to half time without conceding another but the opening to the second half looked no more promising for them as they continued to struggle to keep the ball.
They did at least begin to press forward in search of goals although this allowed City the platform from which to counter attack with Aguero’s pace proving a real handful for the likes of Senderos and Stephen Kelly.
Kelly was bombing forward and though his 60th minute strike was comfortably saved by Joe Hart it represented a rare and encouraging moment of intent from Fulham.
There was still the matter of dealing with Aguero at the other end. The Argentinean brightened up a miserable Manchester day with his performance standing out above all others.
He provided the third for Dzeko in the 73rd minute, gliding past three defenders before laying it off to his strike partner to finish.
He was replaced on 80 minutes having caused enough chaos for one day and his form will be needed at a time when many of Cities other superstars are beginning to go missing. Today at any rate he was up to the test.