Late goals from Navas and Milner secure win
FA Premier League
Saturday 21 December 2013, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Clichy, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Nasri (Milner 75), Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Garcia 84), Dzeko (Navas 58), Negredo
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Rodwell, Guidetti
Goals: Toure (23), Kompany (43), Navas (78), Milner (83)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: David Silva
It was the home side that were off to the better start, as they forced a goalmouth scramble from a corner. Minutes later, Hart pulled off a great save to deny Taarabt, after Clichy had slipped in the build-up. The return ball in was well cleared by Kompany. It sparked City into life and, on the break, Dzeko fed Silva, whose effort crashed back off the crossbar.
The game had been struggling to get any momentum behind it. Hart held onto an effort from Taarabt from range, before Toure smashed a free kick into the net from the edge of the box. All eyes were on Kolarov, but the Ivorian smashed it off the underside of the bar, leaving the goalkeeper standing.
On the half hour, the visitors should have gone two goals up but for a poor decision from Dzeko. Negredo broke with power and pace and found the Bosnian inside the box, but he tried to place his effort instead of sliding Fernandinho in beside him, but Hughes blocked it. From that breakaway, Taarabt had the opportunity to shoot and it needed Hart to push it behind.
Five minutes later, again the Blues should have doubled their lead. Dzeko fed Kolarov on the left and found space in the box for the return pass. There, the striker’s side-footed shot was too close to Stekelenburg and he parried it to safety. A minute later, the Bosnian could only head straight at the keeper as he broke the offside trap.
Another goalmouth scramble followed a great block by Kompany from Taarabt. The resulting corner allowed Fulham to smash the ball into the box and it needed a toe-end from Toure to get it clear, as three different white shirts tried to find room for the shot.
On the stroke of half time, the Blues did double their lead. A free kick from the right flank found Demichelis totally unmarked and the Argentine headed across goal for the far post. Stekelenburg parried and Kompany was on hand to stab the rebound into the roof of the net.
A minute into the second half and it could – perhaps should – have been three for the visitors. Some good possession play released Kolarov down the left and he slid the ball back into the middle for Silva. The Spaniard had to stretch to connect and Stekelenburg was just able to grasp the shot.
Despite the good start to the half by City, it was the hosts who pulled a goal back. Silva wasn’t able to skip away from the challenge on the edge of the box and Fulham broke with pace. Taarabt beat Clichy on the right and he drove into the City area to square for Richardson, who had the simple task of touching it into the net.
With 56 minutes played, Fulham should have equalised. A cross from the right beat the whole of the City back line and Sidwell dived in to head it – but it was wide. Had he left it for Taarabt behind, he would surely have scored. There were four Fulham players offside, however the linesman didn’t flag.
On the hour mark, the Blues should have killed the game. Silva superbly picked out Negredo running into the box, but the Spaniard’s effort was blocked. It fell to Navas – just on for Dzeko – but the winger’s shot was well wide from eight yards out. It should have found the net.
It was chance that City would come to regret as a freak goal pulled Fulham level. A miss-hit cross from Riise was skewed into the air by Kompany and it lobbed over his own goalkeeper onto the underside of the bar. Despite the best efforts of Hart and Clichy, it bounced into the net for the equaliser.
The parity didn’t last long though. Despite having fallen off the pace in the second half, City got their noses in front once again – as Navas was set through down the right flank. He powered past the Fulham defence and, from a tight angle, smashed the shot through Stekelenburg’s legs.
Just as Fulham were preparing for a final onslaught, City added their fourth. Silva found Negredo wide on the right and, with the outside of his right foot, he pulled off one of the passes of the season to pick out the run of Milner into the box. The substitute finished with ease, first time.
It killed the game off and secured City’s third Premier League away win of the season.