Fulham played well, but Manchester City showed they were the stronger side, scoring four goals and moving up in to second place — temporarily, at least, until Arsenal and Chelsea face off. Fulham, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone, although at least René Meulensteen can take comfort from his side’s improved performance.
It’s all fine and well to say that the hosts played better in the first half, but that didn’t stop Manchester City from going into the break with a 2-0 lead. Joe Hart, back in Premier League action, did well to keep Fulham from taking the lead, particularly in the 13th minute, when he pulled off a fingertip save to deny Adel Taarabt the opening goal.
But the first half allocades must go to Yaya Touré, whose goal in the 24th minute was a thing of beauty. With Toure typically taking free kicks on the other side, the Cottagers focused their attention on Aleksandar Kolarov, standing over the ball. Touré’s kick, then, came as a surprise, his shot from 20 yards curling over the wall and past Maarten Stekelenburg to nestle in the top right corner.
Just before the break, Fulham again fell apart after a set piece. Stekelenburg did well to push away a sharp header from Martín Demichelis, but the ball fell to Vincent Kompany, who alertly poked it into goal for City’s second.
Fulham forced their way back into the match shortly after the restart. Steve Siwell dispossessed David Silva and put the ball forward to Taarabt, who raced up the left side. With the City defense caught out, Taarabt had no trouble slotting over to Kieran Richardson, who had no trouble slotting in to the bottom right corner.
The hosts pulled even with 20 minutes left to play, thanks to a comedy of errors by Manchester City. Sascha Riether put in a cross and Kompany, attempting to clear the danger, took a choppy swing at the ball. His woeful clearance turned into a goal for Fulham as the ball looped over Hart and into the back of the net.
Fortunately, the City captain was spared utter humiliation when Jesús Navas, on for Edin Džeko, put his side back in front. A sharp counter saw Navas racing up the wing to latch on to a ball from David Silva. The Spaniard sent his shot to the center of the goal, wiggling through Stekelenburg’s legs to put the visitors ahead once again.
But Manuel Pellegrini’s men had a point to prove, and they weren’t yet content. A fourth was added by James Milner, who’s still flush from his contributions helping his side beat Bayern Munich in Champions League play. Álvaro Negredo sent in a teasing ball that Aaron Hughes was unable to reach. Milner, on for Samir Nasri not even ten minutes earlier, took advantage of Hughes’ lack of speed to knock in City’s fourth.
Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos (Amorebieta 37), Hughes, Riise; Dejagah (Kasami 65), Karagounis (Bent 82), Parker, Sidwell, Richardson; Taarabt
Goals: Richardson 50′, Kompany og 70′
Manchester City: Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri (Milner 75), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Silva (Garcia 84); Dzeko (Navas 58), Negredo
Goals: Toure 23′, Kompany 43′, Navas 78′, Milner 83