City crush Fulham to go fourth

Mark Hughes was the man profiting from Tevez’s prowess in front of
goal 12 months ago but it will be Roberto Mancini hailing the South
American after a man-of-the-match display against his former boss.
Mancini had been criticised for his negative approach ahead of the
game and the Manchester City boss left himself open for more after
naming Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong and Yaya Toure in midfield.
However, there were few complaints from the City end when Tevez put
them in front early on and certainly none by half-time once Pablo
Zabaleta and Yaya Toure had increased the visitors’ lead. Fulham
came into the game a bit more after the interval but Tevez scored a
clever second just before the hour mark to put City 4-0 in front
and Zoltan Gera’s consolation barely took the shine off a terrific
performance by Mancini’s men. For a side said to be lacking in team
spirit and certainly lacking a few goals after successive goalless
draws, this was precisely the kind of banana skin City needed to
avoid. Hughes said all the right things in the build-up to his
first encounter with the club since he was controversially dumped
in favour of Mancini last December but his desperation to win must
have been huge. After all, five of the City team were his signings,
compared to just one in his own. This did not include Jo, who
arrived at Eastlands a couple of weeks before the Welshman and was
sent packing at the earliest opportunity. In a sense, Jo represents
the profligacy of Sheikh Mansour’s tenure. Bought for
£18million without any real role and sent away just as
quickly. It is Tevez though who remains City’s stellar buy of the
Abu Dhabi era. And it took the South American just five minutes to
show why. On the shoulder of Carlos Salcido, Tevez collected
Barry’s pass perfectly, allowing him to roll the defender, expertly
using his body weight, and then drill a low shot beyond Mark
Schwarzer. Such is the success City tend to enjoy when Tevez score,
Hughes must have feared the worst. Had Aleksandar Kolarov showed a
similarly clinical instinct when he nipped past Damien Duff after
David Silva had found him with a delicate chipped pass on a
lightning break forward, the contest would have been over before it
eventually was. The wait was only a couple of minutes though. The
culprit Duff, whose scuffed clearance to a low Silva cross rolled
perfectly for Zabaleta. In front of watching Argentina legend Diego
Maradona, Zabaleta must have impressed his fellow countryman with
the ferocity of his strike, which flew into the corner. If Tevez
was the stand-out signing of Hughes’ time in charge, Yaya Toure is
Mancini’s signature transfer. The wages, estimated at
£220,000, are still so colossal they can scarcely be believed.
The figure trotted out with every ineffective display. Yet Toure
goes about his work in an understated way. The Ivorian did not
really dominate proceedings here but overlapping to Tevez’s right
to collect a pass that continued a move Jo and Silva had started,
he finished in fine style, more or less in exactly the same spot as
the first City goal ended up in. A brief flurry which coincided
with Gera’s half-time introduction raised hopes of a Fulham
face-saving mission. Sadly for Hughes and his players it turned out
to be an illusion. Tevez really should have squared to provide an
unmarked Jo with a tap-in after he had burst clear of the home
defence. Instead he allowed Schwarzer to make the save, conceding
the corner from which he was to profit as, with his back to goal,
he stuck out a foot to send Zabaleta’s 20-yard drive looping into
the Fulham net for his 10th goal of the season. There was no way
back for the hosts, who did gain some consolation thanks to Gera.
But Hughes and his team are now in a relegation scrap and he can
only watch as City challenge for the major honours.